Real Madrid entered the best-of-five Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs knowing its star Sergio Llull was sidelined with a leg injury, while it was facing the competition’s premier playmaker, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens’ Nick Calathes.
However, after two games the reigning EuroLeague champ Madrid is the only team with a 2-0 lead, and is now just one win away from returning to the Final Four. In addition, in the Game 2 victory on Friday night, it was the play of Madrid’s point guards that stood out.
No player’s contribution was bigger than that of Facundo Campazzo, who energized the team on both ends of the floor. He was everywhere with 13 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and 5 steals in less than 23 minutes. Those 5 steals, as part of Madrid’s single-game playoffs record of 13, were also tied for the most in any EuroLeague Playoffs game in seven years.
Campazzo impressed everyone, and even the visiting Panathinaikos head coach was ready to throw some praise at him: “Facundo Campazzo is a tough little kid”, Rick Pitino said in his post game press conference. “On one play our power forward went up with him for a loose ball off a rebound, and he came up with the ball. I don’t know how tall he is, 5’8’’ or 5’9’’, but he came up with a ball over a 6’7’’ 6’8’’ guy. He is a tough guy, plays hard, plays smart, very good pick and roll guy, and his effort is terrific.”
And while Campazzo’s tremendous energy kept making the difference the entire time he was on the floor, Madrid’s play did not suffer much when he was sitting on the bench because of what Klemen Prepelic has brought to the table. Prepelic, who has now appeared in 19 games this season, has been something of a surprise factor in this series.
Prepelic made all of his 3 field goal attempts in Game 2, including a pair of triples. He scored all of his 9 points in the first half, and was Madrid’s top scorer before halftime. Not having letdowns against a dangerous opponent like Panathinaikos is crucial in the absence of Madrid’s star guard Llull.
“The situation with Serge [Llull] is difficult, he’s one of the best players in Europe and we’re without him for the playoffs, and you can’t just have one guy stepping up but the whole team”, said Madrid coach Pablo Laso.
But with contributions from a motor like Campazzo, plus usual role players like Prepelic and Jeffery Taylor, with the two combining to score 20.0 points per game in the series, Laso got his team to step up, and is now just a win away from a place in the Final Four.