February 25, 2010: Real Madrid 77 vs. Montepaschi Siena 69
Wow, that’s really the one word that keeps popping into my head right now. That was just the type of basketball you pray you’re going to get when you walk up to the arena. Emotion everywhere, clutch plays when needed, key players stepped up, some great basketball, a furiously loud crowd, and 2 great teams battling it out.
When you think about this game it came down to Siena’s 5 players, playing the best versus Madrid’s 5. The chemistry between Pablo Prigioni, Sergio Llull, Travis Hansen, Felipe Reyes, and Ante Tomic was utterly amazing. Those 5 guys played all 10 minutes of the 4th quarter for Madrid. No subs, no nothing, just 5 players saying we want this more than you. I will take away from this game that Madrid has finally found their heart. This team has been up and down all season, but tonight they showed their true colors. Playing in front of an almost sell-out crowd, and maybe the loudest the fans have been all season, might have been an inspiration. Siena was leading all game until mid way through the 4th quarter. The whole game Madrid has cut the deficit to 1 or 2 points and then Siena would just go on a run and grow their lead. When it mattered most though Madrid was the one hustling for loose balls, getting tip-ins on offense, and grabbing clutch boards.
One of the biggest changes for this Madrid team has been the way their youngsters have grown up. Sergio Llull has almost become the clutch shooter on this team. When Madrid took their 1st lead in the 4th quarter it was Llull who hit a 3 to put them up. And it was Llull with 1 second left who hit a perfect 3 to cap off the night. The other guy that has really stepped up is Ante Tomic. Just to see him blossom in this game was amazing. Over his past few games he has slowly gotten better and better as he works his way into the Madrid rotation. Against Siena though he was in his zone. With about 4 minutes left there was 2 straight possessions where you could really see the maturity in Tomic. He asked for the ball on the block against Ksistof Lavrinovic, gave a small flinch to see if Ksistof would bite, then turn the opposite way so quickly, and leaned his long arms up for a soft lay-in. The next time down Felipe Reyes was fighting on the block for a shot, he put up a roller on the rim, and you just saw one hand go up and perfectly tip it in. It was Tomic and he finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds.
The difference between these 2 teams tonight was a team effort versus some individual ones. Siena scored off of a ton of 3’s and personal isolations. Madrid on the other hand just had great ball movement, worked the post, and fed off of each other’s energy. It was just a pure art form to watch. 5 players just in completely in sync with one another and leading a strong comeback against a much more physically tough team. What the game came down to those was mental toughness and Madrid wanted it more. From here on out I will not underestimate their heart, because it might be the heart of a champion.