Real Madrid cruised to an 84-58 win over Crvena Zvezda Belgrade on Tuesday night as both teams saw their place in the elimination rounds sealed. Real improved to 5-3, while C. Zvezda dropped its third straight game to fall to the same record. The two teams join PAOK Thessaloniki in second place in Group D – one victory behind leader Unics Kazan. All four of those teams are through to the next round after Group D's other two teams, Dexia Mons and EiffelTowers, each dropped to 2-6. Axel Hervelle led Real with 16 points and 9 rebounds, but the real story was the team's defense, which forced 24 C. Zvezda turnovers. Real also won the battle of the boards 37-27. The hosts led 24-14 after 10 minutes and then held Crvena Zvezda to 9 points in the second to build a 52-23 halftime lead from which it never looked back. Charles Smith added 15 points, Louis Bullock and Marko Tomas 12 each for Real. League-leading scorer Milan Gurovic paced C. Zvezda with 16, Vuk Radivojevic added 11 and Billy Thomas 10.
Felipe Reyes started for Real with 4 consecutive points on a tip-in and a short jumper. The visitors answered through Pero Antic, who scored a layup off a screen-and-roll, although Hervelle dominated the boards for the hosts while scoring on a tip-in and a short jumper. Thomas found the basket with a three-pointer for C. Zvezda, but a Kerem Tunceri layup and Bullock fastbreak off a steal sent Real up 12-5 and forced a C. Zvezda timeout. Thomas hit a short jumper as the action resumed, but Tunceri assisted Hervelle on an alley-hoop that brought the crowd to its feet. Gurovic and Smith exchanged three-pointers before Bullock added his own to make it 20-12. More quick transition after a C. Zvezda miss saw Ratko Varda hover for a layup that left a 22-12 score after a quarter. C. Zvezda kept struggling into the second quarter, until Petar Popovic dunked, although Bullock was ready with another triple off a screen that made the score 29-16. Antic tried to spark a reaction with a huge layup in transition and the free throw that came with it. Inmediately after, Real point guard Raul Lopez was injured and had to leave the game, replaced by rookie Richard Nguema. Varda remained dominant in the paint, while Gurovic could only add free throws as C. Zvezda had only 21 points in 15 minutes as Varda's next good move inside made it 40-21. C. Zvezda could not escape Real's half-court traps, which made things even worse for the visitors, whose next turnover Tomas converted as free throws to cap an 11-0 run at 44-21. Real wasn't done. After letting Thomas go in for a layup, the hosts reeled off the final 8 points of the first half, including Smith's fade-away triple to end it with the Real holding an amazing 29-point advantage, 52-23.
Reyes started another half with a mid-distance jumper and Hervelle joined the party with a layup that meant a 33-point lead for Real, 56-23. Antonio Burks and Tadija Dragicevic stopped the bleeding for C. Zvezda with layups. Burks added a long jumper and Antic a tip-in as the visitors' run reached 0-8. It didn't matter. Smith answered with his own 7-0 blast, including a triple from the corner that made it 63-31. Gurovic found room for consecutive dunks to which Tunceri replied with a three-pointer. Next, Reyes was disqualified for an altercation with Antic over a a rebound as Real reached the end of three quarters coasting in front by 70-39. Tomas scored on a jumper early in the last quarter, and then C. Zvezda started playing for pride as Gurovic hit from the arc, and Vuk Radivojevic scored a fastbreak layup before stealing and assisting Thomas, whose three-pointer capped a 0-8 run for the visitors. Hervelle didn't wait to respond, dropping an easy two-pointer that made the score 74-47 with 5 minutes to go. Real remained hungry, however, with Hervelle and Mumbru scoring to restore that 30-point advantage at 82-52 and let the hometown fans start thinking ahead to the elimination rounds.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Fernando Ojer, Madrid