Real tops Zvezda for its fourth straight win
Real Madrid claimed its fourth consecutive win when it routed visiting Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade 79-67 at WiZink Center on Thursday night. After a tight first half that ended with a 32-32 tie, the home team took control of the game in the third quarter to get a 57-46 edge entering the last stanza. An 11-3 run early in the final period granted Real a 19-point advantage that it never relinquished. Los Blancos improved to 9-2 to go to bed atop of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague standings, while the guests finished the double week with two defeats that dropped their record to 4-7. Walter Tavares led the winners with 15 points, 4 rebounds and 4 blocks for a PIR of 23. Vincent Poirier followed him with 14 points and 8 rebounds in just 18 minutes and Adam Hanga chipped in 11 points and grabbed 6 boards. Austin Hollins paced Zvezda with 16 points and Maik Zirbes contributed 12 in the losing effort.
Hanga set the tone defensively for the hosts in the early going with a pair of blocks on Ognjen Dobric. The latter wasn’t intimidated, though, and scored all of Zvezda’s first 5 points to tie it at 5-5. Hanga stepped up on offense too, going for a triple and a couple of free throws that put Real in front, 10-5. The home team held its opponent scoreless for more than 4 minutes, good enough to amass a comfortable 14-5 advantage behind inside buckets by Tavares and Guerschon Yabusele. Zvezda found some relief from Zirbes, who scored 4 points in a row over Tavares and helped his team improve on rebounding. Hollins scored a jumper and Zirbes hit again from inside to reduce the gap to 16-13 after 10 minutes.
Hollins made a three-point play right after the game resumed to cap a 0-7 run that evened things at 16-16. Poirier took over and scored 6 points in a row to hold his team up on offense. He found some help from Hanga, who nailed a three soon after, but Zvezda didn’t tremble and took the lead, 25-26, with a layup by Ognjen Kuzmic. Even though Rudy Fernandez showed up on offense, the visitors had already found their defensive momentum and Real struggled to find open looks. Dobric and Kuzmic contributed from the foul line to keep Zvezda ahead, 29-30, and despite Yabusele hitting a corner three, more free throws by Stefan Markovic sent the game to the locker rooms at 32-32.
Real tried to play at a higher pace after the break and it worked, as Thomas Heurtel and Fabien Causeur connected once each from downtown to push the hosts ahead. A bucket by Tavares extended it to 42-36 right before Zvezda called for an urgent timeout. The break didn’t help the visitors as expected, as Heurtel capped an 8-0 run that granted a double-digit edge to the home side, 50-38. Back-to-back threes by Hollins and Marko Simonovic allowed Zvezda to abort an early sinking, but a three-point play by Tavares and a floater by Causeur kept Los Blancos rolling, 57-46, entering the last period.
Tavares and Alberto Abalde scored inside to keep the momentum. Fernandez drilled a three and dished a couple of assists to Abalde and Poirier that made it 68-49 with less than 7 minutes remaining. The French center was unstoppable under the rim, which Real took advantage of to maintain a strong margin midway through the final quarter. The visitors hadn’t said their last word yet, though, as Hollins and Nikola Ivanovic combined to fuel a 4-14 run that got Zvezda within 74-65. The rally came to its end when Hanga drilled a three-pointer, which Juan Nuñez followed with a layup to seal the outcome with time to spare.
Tavares and the French crew boost Real after halftime
Real Madrid center Walter Tavares signed off his 20th straight double-digit game in PIR after totaling 15 points, 4 rebounds and 4 blocks in less than 21 minutes. He scored 9 points in the third quarter and prevented the guests from punishing Real’s defense from the inside, which was crucial to help the hosts take control of the game, 57-46, entering the last period. Tavares was very well accompanied by his French teammates, as Thomas Heurtel (9), Fabien Causeur (5) and Guerschon Yabusele (2) combined for the rest of Real’s 25 third-quarter points. Later in the fourth, Vincent Poirer joined in to score 8 in a row that boosted the difference to a place Zvezda never reached.
A home win for Real after four years of waiting
Being the home team had been more a curse than an advantage in the last duels between Real Madrid and Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, as the visiting team left with a road victory in the last five games these teams had played in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Los Blancos had defeated Zvezda in the last three trips to Belgrade: 67-73 last season, 60-75 the previous one and 79-82 on March 30, 2018. On the flip side, the Serbian champs beat Real in Madrid 77-79 on January 18, 2021, and 83-87 in the 2017-18 season. The last home win had taken place almost four years ago when the Real outscored Zvezda 98-68 behind an 11-point, 10-assist double-double by Sergio Llull. This season, after a long wait, Real managed to pull out a win against Crvena Zvezda in front of its fans again.
Despite absences, Zvezda never gives up
Coming from a painful loss in Vitoria-Gasteiz against Bitci Baskonia and missing four players because of injuries (Aaron White, Nikola Kalinic, Nate Wolters and Luka Mitrovic), the visitors were able to put Real in trouble for several minutes. They even enjoyed a short 29-30 lead right before halftime, making up for a 14-5 initial disadvantage. After the break, and when the hosts made their first attempt to escape, 50-38, a couple of threes by Austin Hollins and Marko Simonovic helped Zvezda keep breathing. Even when the gap was close to 20 points midway through the final frame, the visitors fought back and made it a single-digit disadvantage, 74-65 with less than 3 minutes remaining.
Thursday, November 18, 2021