The rehabilitation of Real Madrid under the floor direction of Damir Mulaomerovic continued apace on Wednesday with a thorough 89-78 victory over visiting Partizan Mobtel. Madrid's third consecutive win vaulted the Spaniards to 5-3, good for a second-place tie in Group C with Ulker, a loser at group leader CSKA earlier in the evening. Mulaomerovic's 11 points in the first quarter gave Madrid control early and had his counterpart, Euroleague scoring leader Milos Vujanic, on his heels for much of the evening. Vujanic would finish with a floor-high 21 points, but Mulamoverovic's 20 for Madrid were more effective. Derrick Alston added 14 points and 9 rebounds for the winners, Lucio Angulo 12 and Eduardo Hernandez-Sonseca 12 each and Alberto Herreros 10. Behind Vujanic for Partizan came Nenad Canak with 16 points, all in the first half, and Nenad Krstic with 12. Partizan fell to 2-6 and will not get out of last place in Group C this week.
In the first quarter, Madrid put itself under the charge of Mulamoerovic, who drove the locals to their first big lead at 21-9 thanks to an 8-0 run. The ball movement Madrid had been lacking earlier in the season was already evident on offense, while the Spanish team's ability to frustrate the opposing attack was true as ever. Mulaomerovic's size advantage against Vujanic, who missed 4 two-pointers and did not score in the quarter, no doubt was a factor, but so did the collapsing help of other defenders whenever he neared open space. Still it was Mulaomerovic's accuracy from downtown that made the difference on the scoreboard, as he landed all three attempts from behind the arc on his way to 11 points for the quarter. Partizan got help from Dusan Kecman and Krstic to stay within striking distance of Madrid at 21-15 at the end of 10 minutes. Vujanic finally hit the bottom of the basket with a three-pointer to start the second quarter and pull Partizan within 21-18. But now he had new defenders to deal with, and one of them, Alain Digbeu, answered that three to start an 8-0 Madrid run to 29-18. Vujanic would get to the foul line for 4 free throws in a row, but a triple by Alberto Herreros and consecutive baskets by Alfonso Reyes preserved the double-digit lead for Madrid at 36-25. That's when another Partizan talent chose to take over. Canak went on a one-man scoring explosion, hitting 2 three-pointers, 4 free throws, a fastbreak layup and a jumper during the last 6 minutes before the half. Amid those 14 points in row, Canak had Partizan to within 2 points at 39-37, but an imitator emerged for Madrid in the person of Lucio Angulo, who finished the half with a pair of triples to restore the lead to 45-39 at the half.
With Mulaomerovic again at the controls after halftime, Madrid quickly lengthened its lead to 54-45. When Vujanic threatened with a three-pointer, making it 54-48, Mulaomerovic answered with his own and then fed Alston for a fastbreak dunk. A few minutes later, it was Hernandez-Sonseca outrunning the Partizan big men for consecutive fastbreak baskets, then getting to the line for two free throws as the Madrid lead hit 16 points at 68-52. Partizan rallied, but between forays by Vujanic, Canak was being held scoreless now and would receive his fifth foul before the third quarter ended. Nonetheless, Kecman and Duro Ostojic now got invovled in the offense to help Partizan trim that lead, with a 0-9 closing run, to 68-61 after 30 minutes.
The fourth quarter saw Madrid unable to make a definitive run and Partizan refusing to go home. Vujanic's ability to make something out of any possession was clearly evident now, but it was just a little too late. With 3 minutes left, Herreros put an end to the suspense with a three-pointer. Madrid was not going to lose now. The Spanish powerhouse finished with its highest point total of the season, 89, and was now safer than ever in unpredictable Group C.
Thursday, December 12, 2002