At the start of its must-win game at Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul on Thursday night, Real Madrid made an early statement of intent by opening the scoring with a three-point strike from Nicolas Laprovittola. That one play promptly set the tone for the remainder of the evening, as Real marched into the playoffs on the back of a record night from beyond the arc, inspired by the excellent Laprovittola.
After that initial make from long distance, it remained obvious that Real was prepared to take its chances from deep whenever they came along. Gabriel Deck and Jeffery Taylor combined for four misses from deep in the next 4 minutes, but the shots continued to rain in... And before long they started to fall in, too, as Fabien Causeur, Trey Thompkins and Laprovittola were all on target with three-pointers before the end of the first quarter.
The same trend continued throughout the game, and furthermore many of the threes knocked down by Real came at crucial moments. Causeur ended an 8-2 Fenerbahce rally in the second quarter with a long-range swish, before Alberto Abalde cemented his team’s halftime advantage with a deep strike in the final minute of the second quarter. In the third quarter, Fenerbahce enjoyed its best spell of the game by going on an 8-0 run, only for Laprovittola to quash the home team’s momentum with a three. And the 0-15 run at the start of the fourth that secured the win was fuelled by a pair of triples from Deck.
In the end, Real finished with a new club record total of 19 three-pointers, with an excellent 50% conversion rate on 38 attempts. It was only the sixth time any team has scored at least 19 triples in EuroLeague history, and the first time such a blitz has ever taken place this late in the season.
To be sure, excellent three-point shooting was by no means the only reason for Real’s impressive victory. As head coach Pablo Laso noted after the game: "We defended well, rebounded well and moved the ball well. With those three things you have control of the game."
At the heart of that control was Laprovittola, who combined his long-range accuracy with fantastic orchestration and finished with 10 assists – a new career-high in 66 EuroLeague appearances and more than the whole Fenerbahce team (the hosts only managed 7 assists). Laprovittola also committed just 2 turnovers in nearly 32 minutes on the floor and completed his fine all-round performance by playing his part on defense with a game-high 2 steals.
Another plus for Real came with confirmation that Laprovittola can expect to receive some serious support in the backcourt during the playoffs thanks to the return of a club icon. Sergio Llull came back to action in the second quarter after six weeks sidelined by a knee injury and wasted no time in making an impression as he scored 8 points in less than 6 minutes, including a pair of deep three-pointers to help the team on its way to the record.
With all those positives put together, Real Madrid’s season is still very much alive.