By Eurohoops Team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking confident down the stretch of the fourth quarter and overtime, Real Madrid landed a huge win, 91-86, against FC Barcelona in WiZink Center Thursday night.
Dzanan Musa, a former forward of the Brooklyn Nets, banked in half of his 18 points in the extra five minutes. The player from Bosnia-Herzegovina was the driving force for the team coached by Chus Mateo, but Sergio Llull was the enforcer switching momentum in the fourth period.
“You can win or lose games, but you can never lose your character or your DNA as a team. In the last quarter and overtime, I think we showed our character to win,” noted experienced guard Llull after the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season Round 21 contest.
Llull, 35, registered 15 of his side’s 23 points in the last period of regulation. Adding four more points in overtime shaped a 19-point effort in the latest on an extremely long list of solid Clasico showings spread across his illustrious career.
Another key contribution is in the form of Gabriel Deck. Carrying Los Blancos through rough patches of the overall scrappy affair, the 27-year-old Argentine forward recorded 23 points and a PIR of 33, both game-highs. Grabbing seven rebounds included a huge offensive board setting up Madrid to pull away in overtime.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game until the end. We played with a big heart today, especially coming back in the last quarter,” said head coach Mateo, “If someone represented this big heart, it’s him [Gabriel Deck].”
Real Madrid storms back
The visitors jumped to a 20-9 lead and were in charge until succumbing to ageless Llull. All previous comeback bids were stopped, but the first lead change with 3:11 remaining in regulation was an early sign of the loss, despite actually enjoying a brief lead further down the stretch of the fourth quarter.
“It’s a classical loss,” explained Sarunas Jasikevicius, “When you don’t kill a good team on the road, you are going to lose the game.”
In the latest matchup against his former team, Nikola Mirotic scored a team-high 17 points but also committed five turnovers, among them an unsuccessful drive with the derby tied and 21.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Czechs Tomas Satoransky and Jan Vesely both ended up with 12 points in the losing effort.
Initially part of a four-way tie at the top of the EuroLeague standings, Madrid improved to 14-7 forcing Barcelona to 13-8. In addition to the win and bragging rights on the latest chapter of one of the fiercest rivalries in sports, they got control of a potential tiebreaker between the ACB powerhouses in Europe’s top-tier club continental competition.
“I am very proud of the team, the coach, and everybody maintaining the focus. Basically, they were the better team all game, but you can’t ever discount Real Madrid,” reacted overtime hero Musa.
The earliest tactical decision for the winning side was French big Petr Cornelie left out of the lineup. Alberto Abalde (ankle), Carlos Alocen (left knee), and Anthony Randolph (left knee) remained sidelined.
On the opposite end, Mike Tobey and Oriol Pauli did not suit up. The long-term tenant of the injury list, Sergi Martinez (left knee surgery) was out as well.
Marc Gasol welcomes Barcelona
Similar to the buildup to the latest El Clasico, the rivals from Madrid and Barcelona currently share the top of Spain’s Liga Endesa at 14-3. Moving forward with limited rest, the Catalonia side will meet familiar face Marc Gasol in an ACB meeting with Girona Saturday. The reigning champions of Spain visit Baxi Manresa Sunday.
EuroLeague’s next two-game week features Barca at home opposite Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv and FC Bayern Munich Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. Madrid will face Panathinaikos at WiZink Center Wednesday and AS Monaco at Salle Gaston Medecin Friday.
Photo Credit: EuroleagueBasketball.net