Tavares, defense kept Real's fate in its hands

Apr 03, 2021 by Euroleague.net Print
Tavares, defense kept Real's fate in its hands

Three days after allowing 67 points in the second half and 108 points total to Anadolu Efes Istanbul – both marking its club lows this century – Real Madrid relied precisely on its defense on Friday night in holding Olympiacos Piraeus to just 63 points for an entire game to stay alive in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs race.

Such a defensive effort could not have come at a better time, in what was a must-win situation for the perennial EuroLeague contender and 10-time continental champion. Earlier in the evening on Friday, wins by Zenit St Petersburg and Valencia Basket made it clear that Real could control its own fate only by winning its last two games. After finding a way to bounce back and stop Olympiacos, Real now faces a do-or-die regular season finale next week against old adversary Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul.

After having looked crushed and in danger of missing out on the playoffs 72 hours earlier, Real now retains its playoffs chances, but can still finish as high as fifth place. To make that happen, Real needs to defeat Fenerbahce on the road next Thursday. If not, its chances will depend solely upon Zenit St Petersburg losing at least one of its final two games.

Against Olympiacos, Real set the tone from the start, allowing just 2 points in the opening 6 minutes, then 11 points for the entire first quarter, 15 in the second, and 12 in the third.

"We gave it all defensively and behaved as a team, controlled shots and penetrations," said Chus Mateo, who served as a Real's head coach in place of Pablo Laso. "In general, we dominated the match."

A major difference between Tuesday and Friday was the presence of Walter Tavares, who missed the second half of the Efes game. Against already-eliminated Olympiacos, he spent 34:31 minutes on the floor and was the main reason the visitors made just 16 of their 38 two-point shots, or 42.1%.

"We missed a lot of shots under the basket, sometime with a fear of Tavares, but sometimes without him," Olympiacos head coach Georgios Bartzokas said.

Real will likely need a bit more offensive production next week after committing 18 turnovers and hitting just 8 of 27 threes (29.6%) against Olympiacos. But this game proved how much the presence of Tavares affects any game. With way the big man holds its defense together, Real could have a lot more to say during the rest of April.