Real boosts playoffs hopes with hard-fought win
Real Madrid boosted its playoff chances with a hard-earned 71-74 victory at LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, eliminating the French team from post-season contention. ASVEL enjoyed the better of a closely contested first half, taking a 37-32 lead into the break. Real battled back with a 2-15 run after the break and led nearly all the rest of the way, holding firm on defense for a vital victory. Trey Thompkins paced the victors with 13 points, with Nico Laprovittola adding 12 and Alberto Abalde scoring 11. ASVEL’s Norris Cole led all scorers with 18 points. Guerschon Yabusele and David Lighty both netted 13 and Antoine Diot 12 in defeat. Real improved to 18-13 to ensure it will finish the week in the playoff zone, while ASVEL’s chances are now mathematically zero as it dropped to 12-18.
Thompkins, Laprovittola and Jeffery Taylor scored inside to send Real ahead, but Diot and Yabusele struck from deep for a 6-6 tie. Thompkins and Garuba kept the visitors strong inside the paint before 5 points from Cole made it 11-10 for ASVEL. Lighty’s deep strike was answered by Laprovittola, before dunks from Taylor and Gabriel Deck sent Real back ahead, 16-19. ASVEL responded with Diot’s triple and Amine Noua’s driving score, and Paul Lacombe beat the buzzer to make it 23-20 after 10 minutes. Defenses controlled the early going in the second frame, with no points for nearly 3 minutes until Noua’s layup and one. It took 5 minutes for Abalde to drain one from deep for Real’s first field goal of the quarter, making it 28-25. Yabusele’s tip-in and free throws extended the lead before Abalde hit another triple. Lighty and Laprovittola exchanged inside scores. Yabusele gave ASVEL a 37-32 halftime lead.
Yabusele and Laprovittola traded three-pointers early in the third quarter, before Garuba and Jaycee Carroll also struck from deep to send Real ahead, 42-43. Laprovittola and Carroll scored inside to complete a 2-15 run, but Cole rescued ASVEL with a long two. Walter Tavares added a put-back and one, but Cole started to heat up with another inside score, making it 46-50. Lighty’s mid-range strike was bettered by Deck from deep, and Thompkins added a three-point play to give Real a 51-56 edge with 10 minutes remaining. Cole’s triple boosted ASVEL and he then hit from mid-range to tie it up, 58-58. Diot briefly sent the hosts ahead from the foul line, but Deck and Thompkins restored Real’s lead. Abalde banked one in and it was 61-64 with 3 minutes left. Lighty netted a driving layup, but Thompkins responded with free throws and Abalde sank a crucial three in the final minute for a 63-69 lead. Diot gave ASVEL hope from deep. Tavares scored inside, but Yabusele hit another triple to make it 69-71. After Deck split free throws, Cole and Thompkins made theirs. However, Cole and Charles Kahudi missed three-point attempts to force overtime on the final possession.
Real improves on D
After allowing 23 points in the first quarter, Real tightened up its defense the rest of the way. ASVEL only scored 14 points in both the second and third quarters, allowing Real to move ahead despite struggling for offensive fluidity.
Garuba and Fall impress
No players lit up the scoreboard in a defensive struggle, but two centers impressed. Usman Garuba offered a strong all-round contribution for Real with 9 points, 8 rebounds and a team-high 3 assists, while ASVEL’s Moustapha Fall recorded 11 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.
Contrasting early strategies
The teams had contrasting approaches in the early stages: ASVEL scored its first 9 points from beyond the arc on 3-of-4 three-point shooting, while Real’s first 12 points all came from two-point territory 6-of-7 from two-point range.
Real returns home for a big battle with Anadolu Efes Istanbul next Tuesday, March 30, while ASVEL travels to Khimki Moscow Region on Wednesday.
Thursday, March 25, 2021