By Johnny Askounis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Stopping Real Madrid emerges as the main challenge for the remaining Turkish Airlines EuroLeague participants.
Improving to 5-0 was combined with forcing former roommate on top of the standings FC Barcelona to 4-1. Gabriel Deck was the top performer and Facundo Campazzo connected the go-ahead free throw in the 65-64 victory in WiZink Center on Thursday.
The Argentine point guard was 0/6 from the field and also struggled with 6/9 free throws, but sank a couple to break at tie at 59-59 with 30.1 seconds on the clock. With a potential opportunity to knot the nail-biter at 63-63 with 4.7 seconds left, Tomas Satoransky missed his first of three free throws.
Dishing out seven assists shaped additional contributions for Campazzo. Fellow Argentine, Deck beat the halftime buzzer for the first of two team three-pointers. Making 9/14 from the field, he scored 18 of his game-high 20 points in the middle quarters. Adding seven rebounds and one steal produced a game-high PIR of 20. “We showed our character and got the win,” he said.
Struggling to make shots in Round 5 of the EuroLeague Regular Season, Chus Mateo’s players were 0/14 from beyond the arc and trailing by 14 points midway through the second period. A 16-0 run fueled by Deck and stretching between the first and second half regained the lead, which peaked at 14 points early in the fourth quarter. Ending up with 2/22 triples was remarkably enough to stay perfect.
Madrid remains undefeated over 13 games in all competitions of the 2023-24 season. The winning streak is highlighted by three games against Barcelona. Those three wins mark the only unfavorable outcomes for the defending ACB champions, from Spain’s Liga Endesa and Supercopa Endesa and now to the EuroLeague.
“Both teams tried their best in defense. Probably, it was not the best game for the fans. Anyway, we won and it is enough,” Mateo commented on the low-scoring affair leading to the third win of the season against Barca.
Vincent Poirier covers in style
Dealing with injury issues and limited playing time over recent weeks, EuroLeague’s all-time leader in blocks, Walter Tavares lasted only 16:38 but tallied eight points and five rebounds. Taking over in the paint for large stretches, especially in the middle quarters, Vincent Poirier chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds en route to a PIR of 18.
“I think we fought, grabbed rebounds, and played hard in defense. That changed the balance,” the French center replied to a question about his side winning in a rough shooting evening.
For the visiting side, Willy Hernangomez had a team-high 13 points in 15 minutes opposite his former team. Jan Vesely posted a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double. Alex Abrines with 11 points and Satoransky with ten points were the remaining double-digit scorers for head coach Roger Grimau.
“I think we had a good defensive game. Keeping Real Madrid under 70 points is not easy. But we had problems in the offense,” said Grimau, “We will keep going.”
Nicolas Laprovittola (left adductor) and Michael Caicedo (right foot surgery) sat out for the Catalonia powerhouse. On the other end, Guerschon Yabusele (left knee) was a late scratch, joining Carlos Alocen (left knee) on the injury list.
Switching back to Liga Endesa, looking to add to the 6-0 start, the team based in Madrid will host Zunder Palencia on Sunday. Barca, sitting at 5-1 in the domestic league, will visit Valencia on the same day.
Photo Credit: EuroleagueBasketball.net