On a night when they learned they had lost pace-setting young point guard Raul Lopez for the rest of the season, Real Madrid managed to overcome with a list of positives: a huge performance by Sasha Djordjevic that led to a key 87-82 home victory over Skipper Bologna at home by 87-82 in a Group C showdown between two well-acquainted continental powers. The victory allowed Madrid to take advantage of Panathinaikos's loss at Novo Mesto earlier in the evening to tie for the Group C lead with a 4-1 record, while Skipper Bologna fell to 3-2. Djordjevic recalled his glory days witha 26-point performance that more than made up for the absence of Lopez, his protege, of whom is was announced earlier in the day that he would miss six months following knee surgery next week. Zan Tabak added 15 points for the winners, Alberto Herreros 14, Lucio Angulo 11 and Eric Struelens 10. Skipper was led again by Gregor Fucka with 26 points, with Andrea Meneghin adding 21 and Gianluca Basile 15.
Lopez's absence was somehow balanced by John Celestand's, but the American point guard had a secondary role among the goals of the white team. The big worry had another name and surname: Gregor Fucka. The obsession to stop him had its negative consequences for Real throughout the first half. Fucka stepped on court like a hurricane. He posted 7 points in the first three minutes, and he pulled Skipper away to an instantaneous lead (4-11).
Suddenly, just like he had arrived, Fucka disappeared of Skipper's offense as his teammates, Andrea Basile and Andrea Meneghin, filled the bill. But even staying away from the active game, Fucka remained Real Madrid's nightmare since, in the obsession of having him under control, the whites forgot that basketball is a five-player game, and forgot about the rebounding. But Djordjevic was better than the rest tonight, and thanks to his golden wrist, the first period almost ended tied (19-21).
In the second quarter, Real based most of its offensive power on Zan Tabak's hands, and this was again a helping factor for the Italian squad. In addition, Fucka woke up again and hit 10 more points in this period which were successfully neutralized thanks to several individual actions by the hosts (40-39 at half). After all was said and done, Djordjevic's genius was going to play a decisive role in the final minutes, and Skipper can assure that. The Yugoslav hit a field goal, a three-pointer and two free throws which made the difference (56-47 in minute 28), and the Italians just broke down. The last quarter began with Struelens and Tabak smashing the opposite rim, and Skipper didn't dare doing anything about that. Perfect night for the Spanish subchampion, which has already caught Panathinaikos and will be able to play the next games without external pressure.
Wednesday, November 7, 2001