Euroleague: Tavares is the king in attack and defense | Sports

“A giant can never hide”, assumes Walter Tavares, the 2.20m tower of Real Madrid and the most decisive player in European basketball. And not alone, shy as he is, when he goes to the movies or for a walk in the Retiro Park with his wife and his one-year-old son. On the court, all eyes are on the pivot born 31 years ago on the island of Maio, in Cape Verde. Those of his teammates, who hang from his imposing perch to shield themselves in defense and attack the opposing hoop, and those of the rivals, who in each of the baskets try to make the giant bend his knees.

Tavares celebrates 200 games in the Euroleague this Wednesday. In this way, he has become the maximum historical blocker of the competition (created in 2000-01). There are 367 occasions in which he has blocked the ball with his huge hands and arms like poles, a ranking in which he surpasses Bryan Dunston (322 blocks with Olympiacos and Efes), and in which the Galician Fran Vázquez is fourth with 249 blocks between Unicaja and Barça. Tavares averages 1.8 blocks per game, compared to 1.6 for D’Or Fischer.

That wall that is the bulk of Tavares, the axis of a usual 2-3 defense, scares away from the area the outsiders who try to penetrate the heart of the defense. In attack, the tallest man on the court is the target to which the passes from Williams-Goss, Sergio Rodríguez, Musa and Hezonja fly. Not because it is known and foreseeable, the recipe stops working. This is how Tavares crushed the Partizan ring again and again in the third match of the series, with the white team against the ropes and the need to turn off the boiler of 20,000 spectators at the Stark Arena in Belgrade.

The Cape Verdean center, who has led his team to play this summer in the first World Cup in its history (with 590,000 inhabitants, the country with the smallest population that has ever qualified), smashed Obradovic’s board with 26 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in 35 minutes on the track. Mateo stretched his presence on the field to the maximum, which in Europe is 24 minutes a night, to stay alive in the quarterfinals.

The technician surrenders to the importance of a unique piece on the continental stage. “He helps us find solutions and conditions our rivals in attack and defense. U.S. too. Inside he becomes strong and when they take him out to defend we suffer. It is not something new. Many teams do it, they throw us against Tavares, and when they succeed in the triple it seems that it is a disaster. He helps us to have an offensive benchmark against certain types of defence”, analyzes the Real Madrid coach. And he focuses on another aspect more related to his mental strength: “He receives many fouls that he has to put up with. They want to get him out of his boxes and he has been very intelligent up to now, he has been mature enough to be calm. If he controls it, he will be a better player because they always want to take him out of the game ”.

A blow to the left knee in the first match left Tavares out of the game for the second match. It is no coincidence that without his totem, Madrid suffered the largest difference of all those registered in the series: 80-95. Victims of anxiety, the Madrid players lost control of the scene and Llull’s unsportsmanlike foul led to the brawl that embarrassed basketball. Yabusele is still sanctioned from that fight for his attack on Exum. The punishment is added to Deck’s injury and Poirier’s physical problems, a medical report that weakens the whites’ inside game. The importance of having the best version of Tavares multiplies.

The pivot arrives at the decisive event after being named the best defender in the ACB for the third time in a row, an award that symbolizes the admiration he feels for Marc Gasol. The Girona center gave him his number 33 shirt when their teams met two weeks ago.

In the Spanish League, Tavares averages 10.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and two blocks per game, numbers similar to those he has in the Euroleague (10.9, 6.6 and 2.2). The big guy who landed in Spain barely knowing how to bounce or coordinate is today the jewel in the crown. He has one more year on his contract with Madrid and his plans are not to return to the NBA. In Europe he is the king.

You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.

Subscribe to continue reading

Read without limits