euroleague – rooms – working day 4
An exciting EuroLeague quarterfinal series deserved a Game 5. Madrid conquered Belgrade again and forced the outcome of the series next Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. at the Wizink in search of the Final Four in Kaunas. No team has ever come back from 0-2 in a European Cup tie, but Madrid have earned their opposition to the feat. Twice they beat Partizan in the Spanish capital, and twice they hit Chus Mateo’s team in Serbia when they were on the ropes. A new final is coming.
A blanket of flowers covered the track before the start of the match. It was a tribute to those killed and wounded in the shooting at a Belgrade school the day before. The ball began to bounce amid many emotions on the surface. Curiously, it was the anticlimax for Partizan, accustomed to turning each appointment into a cauldron. The fiery atmosphere of other nights had frozen, tears had replaced the screams, and the Belgrade team took time to warm up. The penetrations of Musa and Hanga gave the first income to Madrid, more comfortable in defense before the decrease in revolutions of the men in black. Two Lessort losses symbolized that local grip. The zero on the scoreboard was not erased by Partizán until after three minutes, and two triples by Hanga and another by Musa from the same corner opened a serious loophole (7-17). The whites put the bolt with Tavares (named best defender in the ACB for the third time in a row) and ran at ease. The atmosphere in the Stark Arena was far from hell for those of Chus Mateo. Mourning had overshadowed the basketball party.
Another hanga outside bingo (11 points in the first quarter) stretched the lead to 13-24. In the worst scenario, Madrid traveled the most comfortable stretch of the tie. The breadth of his squad allowed the coach to rotate without lowering the bar. Five triples, as many hits as baskets from two, melted down Partizán in those initial 10 minutes (15-27).
Without the volcanic Punter (he will return for the fifth duel), Partizan was in dire need of an agitator. Madrid kept their feet firm with Sergio Rodríguez shooting from the same tile as his colleagues on the perimeter, Hanga piercing the wall and Tavares everywhere (21-32). It was Papapetrou who spurred the troops also from a distance because Lessort collided with the white towers from inside. Leday took over with very good movements in the area and the fever that the clash required. The pavilion was rising in temperature. Tavares’ time on the bench (Randolph charged with three fouls as a substitute) fueled the local reaction to tie an 11-2 and come back to life (32-34). Madrid smiled if they could accelerate, but in static it was difficult for them to find the gaps before the break. Llull dressed as a veteran to earn three free throws against Madar (42-45). A breather for the whites.
Beat by beat, Belgrade was Belgrade again. The stands were already beginning to play and each action was chewed much more. Madrid was looking for the paths that would lead to Tavares. The Cape Verdean was impregnable especially under his guard. On the offensive line, only Musa scored for the Whites in more than six minutes. The Partizán was not there to shoot rockets either, erratic and hasty in the long shot before the white zone. Obradovic’s troops moved a finger ahead (51-49) almost out of inertia. White came to the rescue, who else, Tavares, target of the passes from his teammates and a safe back. Seven points in a row from the stem and a triple from Deck oxygenated Madrid (55-61).
The Partizan had no other recourse than to hold the knife between its teeth. Papapetrou and a plugged-in Leday commanded the arreones, but the Belgrade team missed both from the triple and from the free kick (66-71). The whites seemed to remain calm despite the doubts about certain arbitration decisions. Leday kept adding to squeeze the result in another all-or-nothing night. Moment for Sergio Rodríguez, hardened in a thousand battles. Deck limped out of the ring due to an injury to his left knee (74-78 at 2m 10s). The Partizán had rowed to the shore, but at the time of the brave, Madrid exhibited more stripes. A titanic Tavares (15 points and seven rebounds) emerged from a jungle of arms to score a two plus one with a minute to go that sealed the visitor’s victory. The fifth game of chess will decide on Wednesday who will travel to the Final Four in Kaunas.
PARTIZAN, 78; REAL MADRID, 85
Partizan: Madar (6), Nunnally (2), Trifunovic (3), Leday (25) and Lessort (11) —starting five—; Andjusic (7), Smailagic (0), Exum (6), Papapetrou (18).
Real Madrid: Williams-Goss (6), Hanga (15), Musa (14), Deck (14) and Tavares (15) —starting five—; Hezonja (5), Sergio Rodríguez (8), Rudy Fernández (0), Randolph (3), Cornelie (0) and Llull (5).
Referees: Vilius, Lottermoser and Paternico. No deleted.
Stark Arena in Belgrade. 20,091 viewers. 2-2 in the quarter series. The fifth game, on Wednesday in Madrid. In the other duel on Thursday, Maccabi, 104; Monaco, 69 (2-2 in the series). This Friday, Fenerbahçe – Olympiacos (7:45 p.m.; 1-2 for Olympiacos). Barça, already classified after defeating Zalgiris 3-0.
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