Real Madrid: Eternally elite

May 09, 2017 by Print

Nine-time continental champion Real Madrid continues its most impressive run of international success in more than three decades with a fifth appearance at the Final Four in the last seven years. Its three most recent Final Four trips finished in the championship game, and the last time they were at European club basketball's pinnacle event – on their home floor in 2015 – Los Blancos lifted the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague trophy for the first time in 20 years. A perennial title contender, Madrid will aim for nothing less this time around. After boasting the best record in the league this season, Madrid is poised to make a run for more EuroLeague glory.

Madrid claimed first place in the regular season behind a well-oiled, efficient and a balanced offense that not only led the EuroLeague in many key statistical categories – performance index rating, assists, three-pointers made, two-point shooting accuracy and assist-to-turnover ratio – but also excelled at getting key contributions from just about every player on the roster.

Madrid is the only EuroLeague team this season that defeated every other team at least once and the only team that never lost two games in a row. Madrid held one of the top three spots in the standings every week of the season. Behind a nine-game winning streak, which was the longest in the competition this season, Madrid leapt into first place in Round 19 and never relinquished that position.

The playoffs represented a new challenge and Madrid proved up to the task then, too. Los Blancos rallied from a first-half double-digit deficit to beat Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul 83-75 in the series opener behind 23 points and 6 assists from Sergio Llull. After Darussafaka won Game 2 in Madrid, Coach Pablo Laso's men responded on the road in Game 3. Jaycee Carroll led five Madrid scorers in double figures with 21 points in an 81-88 victory. Two days later, Madrid booked its place at the Final Four with a 78-89 win that featured a fantastic all-around performance from teenage sensation Luka Doncic, who was named MVP for both Game 3 and Game 4 of the playoffs.

Madrid has been crowned European champion more times than any other team in basketball. With an instilled culture of winning and seven players still on the roster from its 2015 championship team, Madrid will not return happy from Istanbul unless it can add to the club's legacy by bringing home an unprecedented tenth title.

Road to Istanbul

1. Real Madrid started the season by thrashing Olympiacos Piraeus at home by 18 points in an opening game that commemorated the original one under Euroleague Basketball back in 2000.

2. Madrid's first defeat came just two weeks later against Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz, but that would prove Madrid's only home loss for the entire 30-game regular season.

3. In Round 8, Madrid unleashed a smashing 63-102 win on the road against FC Barcelona Lassa for the club's biggest EuroLeague victory margin ever against its archrival.

4. Between Round 15 and 23, Madrid registered a EuroLeague-best nine-game winning streak that vaulted the team into first place for the rest of the regular season.

5. Despite losing at home in Game 2 of the playoffs, Madrid rebounded with consecutive road wins on the court of Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul to storm back into the Final Four.