Round 19 on Monday: Zvezda stuns host Real, 77-79
After waiting almost a week to get there, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade ambushed Real Madrid in the Spanish capital for a much-needed 77-79 road victory on Monday in a Round 19 game that had been rescheduled due to a snowstorm. Zvezda raised its record to 7-13 by breaking a four-game losing streak away from home, while Madrid fell to 13-7 and missed the chance to tie FC Barcelona in second place. Corey Walden scored 16 of his 18 points as Zvezda established consistent leads in the first half. Ognjen Dobric followed him with 13 points, while Duop Reath scored 10, but the big star for Zvezda was a defense that let no Real player surpass the 11 points that Rudy Fernandez scored off the bench. Nicolas Laprovittola, Gabriel Deck, Trey Thompkins and Jeffery Taylor each added 10 points for the hosts.
Walden hit a pair of jumpers and a fastbreak layup around Aleksa Radanov's scoop shot and Ognjen Kuzmic's put-back as Zvezda shot in front 5-11. Kuzmic downed another offensive rebound and Walden gave himself 10 points with a triple at 9-16. Through 6 minutes, only Walter Tavares and Laprovittola, whose second triple made it 14-16, had scored for Real. Branko Lazic and Deck for traded triples before Fabien Causeur finished a fastbreak for a 19-19 tie. Quino Colom's 4 points let Zvezda retain a 21-23 advantage after 10 minutes. Colom and Alberto Abalde exchanged baskets to open the second quarter before Alex Tyus and Thompkins gave the hosts the lead again, 29-25. Johnny O'Bryant answered with his first 5 points and Walden took back the lead at 31-32. The unstoppable Walden converted a four-point play next, but Fernandez got 3 of them back in one shot, then he and Jaycee Carroll forged a 40-40 tie. That was broken by a five-point Zvezda possession – Dobric's free throws and a triple from Duop Reath – inside the final minute to leave a 40-45 score at halftime.
Thompkins started the second-half scoring from downtown, but Radanov hit a floater, then fed Reath for a triple and a layup at 45-52. Taylor hit his first shot from the arc and then stole for a fastbreak layup at 50-52. Dobric and Marko Jagodic-Kuridza kept Zvezda ahead but Deck and Tavares inched Real within 58-60. Dobric hit his first triple then drew a foul in the third quarter's final second that turned into 3 points for a 58-66 Zvezda lead after 30 minutes. Almost 2 minutes passed in the fourth quarter before Dejan Davidovac added free throws for the game's first double-digit lead, 58-68. Another minute passed before Lazic stole and hit a layup and, after a timeout, Taylor knocked down a corner triple at 61-70. Fernandez hit a floater but Dobric beat the shot-clock on an inbounds play at 63-72 with 5 minutes left. Carroll and Fernandez blasted triples around Reath's foul-line jumper at 69-74. Lazic hit a floater that held up for a 69-76 Zvezda lead with less than 2 minutes still left. Taylor put back a Real miss at 71-76 after which the hosts forced a 24-second violation on Zvezda. With a minute left, Fernandez hit the floor and hurt his back on a loose ball, drawing an unsportsmanlike foul for which Thompkins hit 2 free throws and Real retained possession. Carroll missed the would-be game-tying triple before he and Walden exchanged free throws for a 75-78 score with 33 seconds left. Zvezda spent the whole shot clock before a turnover led to Laprovitolla being fouled and making both shots at 77-78 with 6.3 seconds left. Colom was fouled within a second and made only 1 of 2, leaving Real 5.6 seconds to overcome a 77-79 deficit. Carroll's game-tying baseline attempt was short, however, and the buzzer sounded, sending the victory back to Belgrade.
Walden's 16 first-half points gave Zvezda the confidence it needed, while after the break, Dobric stood out with his blocks, assists and big shots in almost 18 minutes of play in the second half. He finished with 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block for a team-high performance index rating of 21.
The taming of Tavares
Real's tower of power Walter Tavares came into the game as the EuroLeague third-best performer in terms of average PIR and had a fine game with 9 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks for a PIR of 15. But he didn't dominate as usual, in part because his former teammate, Ognjen Kuzmic, matched Tavares's rebounding and blocks for a PIR of 13, his second-best all season. Duop Reath spelled Kuzmic and hit 2 three-pointers on the way to a season-high 10 points while forcing Tavares to defend far from the basket for a few precious moments.
Apart from Zvezda being tied or ahead for all but about 4 minutes of the first half, the biggest stat was the visitors' interior defense, which held Real to 13-for-33 two-point shooting, or 39.4%. That was Real's worst two-point shooting on its home court in almost 10 years, since a 37.2% performance in the playoffs against Valencia Basket on April 7, 2011. What's more, those 13 two-pointers tied Real's lowest total at home since 2008.
Streak in Madrid
Zvezda has now beaten Real twice in a row in the Spanish capital, having also won on its last trip to WizInk Arena, on Dec. 1, 2017. In that game, Zvezda hit a club-record 17 three-pointers and took an 83-87 decision, its first victory on Real's court since the very first time they played. On that occastion, January 24, 1973, the visitors prevailed 74-77 behind 20 points each from Zoran Slavnic and Goran Rakocevic, who was the father of future Real player Igor Rakocevic, winner of three EuroLeague Top Scorer trophies.
Both teams turn around to play their regularly-scheduled Round 21 games later this week. Real hits the road for an all-time classic at the home of Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv on Thursday. Zvezda plays its third road game in Spain in the last week when it visits FC Barcelona on Friday.
Monday, January 18, 2021