euroleague – rooms – working day 3
In the middle of the hell of Belgrade a giant emerged. Walter Tavares turned off the boiler that fed 20,094 Partizán spectators with a performance as enormous as his figure. There were 26 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocks to rescue Madrid and leave the Euroleague quarterfinals at 1-2. The white team still faces a feat never seen in the European Cup, coming back from two initial defeats in a tie, but the patient is still alive after being on the ropes. Tavares and a grown Williams-Goss (22 points) sent the series to the fourth round, on Thursday at the bustling Stark Arena.
The initial quintets jumped onto the track sharing a banner: Basketball unites people, basketball unites people. In that photo posed Llull, whose unsportsmanlike foul on Punter caused the fight last Thursday, and Tavares, rescued after missing that clash due to a knee injury. The giant patted the first ball and it took Musa six seconds to commit a foul in attack. The next two white approaches to the hoop ended in losses, Madrid’s torture this course, and Partizán accepted the rush that the stands injected into it to write a 9-0 that forced Chus Mateo to stop machines before two minutes. Another loss made it 12-0 until the Real Madrid team opened with some free kicks from Williams-Goss. Obradovic’s troops defended with the knife between their teeth and in attack, with everyone joining the cause, forced the whites to charge themselves with fouls. Hezonja had to dress as four before the losses of Deck and Yabusele. Tavares also appeared and a triple by Musa gave the visitors air (13-9). The Belgrade team did not lift their foot for a second, launched by Smailagic and Madar, very confident in the shot (28-13). Mateo turned the wheel with the changes (Rudy, Randolph, Sergio Rodríguez) without finishing the bleeding: 32-19 to reach the first break.
Tavares returned to the trenches, more of a beacon than ever. Smailagic took the pivot out of his cave with the hook of the outside shot, but inside there is no player in Europe who can contain the Cape Verde tower. Rudy turned on the light from the perimeter (41-31) and Partizán began to accuse that excess of revolutions with which he had started. Difficult to maintain that crazy rhythm, also reduced by the sanctions on Punter and Lessort. The local downturn was taken advantage of by Tavares with a display of muscle. Madrid squeezed the simple recipe of sending balls to the tallest man on the field (2.20 meters). Time and time again, the eternal arms of Tavares rose in the area to hunt the passes from the outside and crush the Partizán ring. Over and over again, the Belgrade team declared itself powerless to stop such a stalk (41-37). Madrid rounded off a 0-11 run, Obradovic’s men were dry in attack for more than four minutes, hasty and erratic from the three-pointer, and the game went back to square one. Tavares earned the break with 16 points (14 of them in the second quarter) and seven rebounds in that first half, majestic, saving when the Spanish team looked over the precipice: 48-45.
The Belgrade boiler no longer boiled as hot. The precipitation was now traveling in the Partizan wagon, more imprecise and without a captain to hold the helm tightly. Stark Arena missed Kevin Punter and Lessort more than ever. Madrid had found its place after resisting the storm. The home team tried to close the access routes to Tavares, tightening the nuts hard in the back quarter, but the pivot was unstoppable. A block from the big man on Nunnally led to a counterattack and a three-pointer from Hezonja that culminated the whites’ hard-fought comeback (53-54).
Around Tavares, Madrid connected the rest of the pieces. Hezonja was a magnet for the rebound, Musa contributed with his penetrations, Williams-Goss (former Partizan player) showed off his wrist… and the team ran and covered every crack in front of their basket. Those from Belgrade were not that oiled machine from the beginning, but moved in fits and starts, hooked on individual actions (63-66 after the third quarter).
The last bullet of the Partizán rested on its tireless fans. Not a second of discouragement, not a silent throat. Dante Exum, recovered after Yabusele’s tackle in the WiZink tangana, commanded the reaction. A plugged-in Williams-Goss (68-70) responded until he committed the fourth foul. Two three pointers from Musa did not even touch the rim. Nerves ran through every corner of the pavilion with five minutes to go.
Mate by mate, Tavares punished the net of the men in black. Before that cyclone there was no possible spell, not even from the magician Obradovic (74-75). For Smailagic, a nightmare. For Madrid, Tavares or Tavares. Fate was in his hands in another heart attack ending. With the score at 77-77, Williams-Goss hammered from 3-point range with just 24 seconds to go. Madrid suffered until the last tenth to stay alive in the quarterfinals. This Thursday, with Deck and Lessort back, another hectic chapter.
PARTIZAN, 80; R. MADRID, 82
Belgrade Partizan: Nunnally (13), Andjusic (6), Madar (12), Smailagic (15) and Leday (15) —starting five—; Trifunovic (2), Exum (11), Papapetrou (4), Avramovic (-), Koprivica (0) and Vukcevic (2).
Real Madrid: Williams-Goss (22), Lull (0), Musa (9), Cornelie (0) and Tavares (26) —starting five—; Hezonja (12), Randolph (1), Hanga (3), Rudy Fernández (6) and Sergio Rodríguez (3).
Partial: 32-19, 16-26, 15-21 and 17-16.
Referees: Ryzhyk, Difallah and Mogulkoc. They eliminated Madar.
Stark Arena: 20,094 viewers. Partizán dominates in the quarterfinals 1-2. The fourth meeting, this Thursday in Belgrade. In the other game this Tuesday, Maccabi, 78; Monaco, 83 (2-1 for the French team in the series). This Wednesday, Zalgiris-Barça (7:00 p.m., Dazn; 2-0 for the Catalans) and Fenerbahçe-Olypiacos (7:45 p.m., 1-1).
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