Even though Real Madrid managed to close the two-round week with a double-digit win over visiting Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, the game was anything but easy for Los Blancos. Despite suffering four absences due to injury (Aaron White, Nikola Kalinic, Nate Wolters and Luka Mitrovic), the visitors came back from an early 4-15 deficit to lead 29-30 late in the second quarter and reached halftime with all square at 32-32.
“Our first half was not good, but probably the best was the score, as we were tied. We committed many mistakes in defense and had the feeling we didn’t control the game, but we were tight”, said Real Coach Pablo Laso when reflecting on the problems his team had in the first 20 minutes.
Laso found the answers he needed from the tall guys, as Walter Tavares and Vincent Poirier stepped up big after halftime to lead Real Madrid and build a solid advantage that reached a game-high 19 points (70-51), which proved decisive in the end.
Tavares and Poirier were the top-rated players for the winning side with a PIR of 23 each. Tavares totaled 15 points, 4 rebounds and 4 blocks in less than 21 minutes, while Poirier posted 14 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks in 18:37. Tavares scored 9 points in the third quarter to build a 57-46 margin after 30 minutes and Poirer had 8 points in a row that secured Real’s win in the fourth.
“[Having Walter Tavares and Vincent Poirier together in the team] is very important for us”, confessed Laso. “They are able to play defensively and offensively and even sometimes we play them together, which makes it a big lineup, but a lot of times they let us play with a small lineup. That’s how they are so important for us."
Their physicality is also a very useful asset when it comes to facing such tough and demanding challenges as every Euroleague game is.
“We know every team in the EuroLeague is a great team. We did better in the third quarter and that’s what helped us win the game”, explained Tavares, who showed great joy after knowing Real was going to sleep atop of the standings with this win. “For sure I think we deserve to be there. We work hard, we work for the position, so we gotta keep working because we still have a lot of games to go”."
Laso also wanted to give some credit to his teammates, as he recognized the key role Tavares and Poirier played in this game is not always easy to achieve: “Like I said it’s not only about Walter and Vincent but it’s about everybody adjusting to those situations of having big guys that probably are less mobile than other inside players in other teams, like Simonovic for example, or Davidovac today”, he revealed.
That team effort, represented by Adam Hanga’s 11 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks, or Rudy Fernandez 7 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists, was the perfect fit for the duo of Tavares and Poirier and helped Real break a weird trend between Los Blancos and Crvena Zvezda.
In the games these two teams had played so far in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague, the visiting team had left with a victory in the last five. 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 Real Madrid 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, and Tavares and Poirer had a lot to do with it.