Forget the injuries to two of its top eight players. Forget the pressure of a do-or-die game. Real Madrid promised a reaction in Game 2 against Paf Bologna, and it delivered that reaction with all its might Thursday. The result was a 88-57 blowout that not only sent this Euroleague quarterfinal series back to Bologna for a third and final game next week, but seemed to change the momentum as well. Madrid looked like the same team that won 14 in a row and toyed with opponents not too long ago. Paf looked like a shadow of itself, and will certainly have some soul-searching ahead if it is to do anything to dampen Madrid's spirit in next week's showdown.
Five Madrid players scored in double figures, led by surprise starter Jiri Zidek with 15 and point guard Sasha Djordjevic with 13. Each player connected on 3 of his 7 three-point attempts, but it was Madrid's inside dominance, with a 42-31 advantage in rebounding and 21 of 36 two-pointers made, where the real difference was. That and on defense, where the hosts held Paf to 30 percent shooting inside the arc.
"Our defense has been excellent," said Madrid coach Sergio Scariolo. "We have demonstrated that good offensive players can defend, too."
Eric Struelens The themes were set as soon as possible after tipoff, although there was almost no explaining the first five minutes of this game. With all the veterans on the floor, nervousness or big-game pressure didn?t seem possible, but there was no other way to account for all the misses, not even the understandable tense resolve of both defenses. Paf went a whole six minutes without so much as a point, until Carlton Myers finally broke the ice with a short jumper. But at that point, all that Paf had lost, really, was the chance to keep the crowd from getting into the game, as it did more and more loudly with each miss by the visitors. On the scoreboard, however, Madrid led by just 8-2, and it wasn't until center Jiri Zidek nailed a three-pointer that anything started to loosen up. Even then, though, the first-quarter score was 13-6, nothing to inspire confidence in either side. Both teams had shot 3-for-11 in two-point attempts, Madrid 1-for-6 on threes as compared to Paf's 0-for-5. Most of the difference was four extra free throws for the home team.
It was Madrid's bench who turned that solid defense into bigger and bigger leads. Roberto Nuñez, subbing for injured point guard Raul Lopez, nailed a three-point to start the second quarter, and then Alberto Angulo made three straight shots as the Madrid lead bulged to 24-10. Paf kept turning the ball over ' it was up to nine by this time ' and missing. The highligh of the whole quarter for the visitors was a three-pointer by Gianluca Basile in the final minute. The halftime score was 34-22, as Paf failed to make any two-pointer at all in the second 10 minutes.
Stojan Vrankovic But the worst was yet to come for Paf as nothing seemed to work. Stojan Vrankovic couldn't rebound or block shots. Gregor Fucka couldn't get any rhythm as Madrid pushed him around. Madrid added nine points to its lead in the third quarter as Djordjevic nailed back-to-back three-pointers and Marko Milic kept making it to the hoop. The lead was at 60-39 going into the final period. That's an average of 13 points a quarter until then for Paf, which was looking as weak as other visitors to Madrid earlier this season. Whatever was wrong with Paf, it was going to have to wait until Game 3 to get corrected. There was already a line at the travel agent's in Madrid for tickets to Bologna next week.
Thursday, March 1, 2001