Real rallies to edge Zenit
Real Madrid bounced back from a stunning loss two days before to take down Zenit St Petersburg 71-75 on the road at Sibur Arena on Thursday. Real outscored the hosts 2-9 over the game's final 2 and a half minutes to claim the victory and leapfrog Zenit in the standings. Los Blancos improved to 17-11 and send Zenit down to 16-11. The victory also gave Real a season-sweep for Zenit. Walter Tavares shined for Real with 16 points and 9 rebounds despite being limited to 23 minutes by foul trouble. Gabriel Deck added 15 points for the visitors. Kevin Pangos led Zenit with 14 points and 7 assists, Billy Baron scored 12, Alex Poythress 11 and Mateusz Ponitka 10.
The points came quickly at the start with four Real players scoring – including 5 points from Deck – in the first 3 minutes as the visitors grabbed a 6-12 lead. Tavares scored twice in the paint to give his team a double-digit lead, 8-18, midway through the opening quarter. After a Zenit timeout, Pangos knocked down a three, but Real continued to roll with another basket by Tavares and a layup by Carlos Alocen. After Will Thomas sank free throws for the hosts, Tavares's hook shot gave him 10 points for the quarter and a Real a 13-24 advantage after 10 minutes. Despite an alley-oop slam from Tarik Black, Real extended its lead to 15-29 on a Trey Thompkins triple. Pangos responded with 5 quick points to prompt a Real timeout. Tavares came back after a rest and soon scored on the offensive glass to restore a double-digit lead. Pangos's third three of the game gave him 14 points and trimmed the deficit to 29-38 at the break.
Poythress attacked Tavares for a three-point play on the first possession of the second half. Austin Hollins hit a jumper, Poythress scored in the paint and Ponitka netted free throws to cap a 9-0 run that evened the score at 38-38. Jeffery Taylor and Trey Thompkins briefly put Real back on top. After Thomas tied it with a triple, Poythress's tip-in gave Zenit its first lead since the opening minutes, 43-41. The teams settled in and traded baskets with Thomas heating up for the hosts. A pair of threes by Baron – one of them a four-point play – extended the margin to 58-52, which was how the third quarter ended. Jaycee Carroll twice drew Real within 2, but Zenit responded each time. Fabien Causeur free throws made it 64-62 midway through the fourth quarter. Hollins revved up the home fans with a dunk on the offensive glass, however, a circus shot by Deck evened things at 66-66 with 3 minutes remaining. Baron answered with a three on the next possession, but Deck dunked and Nicolas Laprovittola drove through the Zenit defense for a go-ahead layup with 1:45 on the clock. Tavares took charge with a block on one end and a dunk-plus-foul at the other for a 69-72 advantage. After Baron missed from deep, Causeur made it a two-possession game with 2 free throws with 27.2 seconds to go and the visitors held on the rest of the way.
Walter Tavares dominated without mercy in the first half as Real Madrid led by as many as 14. He was forced to miss most of the third quarter with foul trouble and did not return until there were 6 minutes to play. He contributed a key block and a slam in the final two minutes to help preserve the lead. After posting 14 points and 7 rebounds in the first half, Tavares finished with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 1 block.
Both teams went inside often and Real had a big advantage in the paint. The visitors shot 26 for 44 (59.1%) on two-pointers, which helped cover for its 3-for-11 on threes (27.3%). In contrast, Zenit made just 17 of 36 two-pointers (47.2%).
Another milestone for Carroll
Real's 37-year-old guard Jaycee Carroll scored 6 points to climb another rung on the all-time scoring charts. He tied Jaka Lakovic for 17th place with 2,524 career points. His injured teammate, Rudy Fernandez, is 16th with 2,614.
Real Madrid faces another stern test next week when it hosts archrival FC Barcelona in el Clasico in Round 29 on Thursday, March 11. Zenit visits Olympiacos Piraeus in Greece the following day.
Thursday, March 4, 2021