By: Nick Gibson, Sam Meyerkopf and Rob Scott
Fuenlabrada pushed Real Madrid all the way, in a thrilling end to day two of the Copa del Rey. Tied at 53 going into the final period, and down two when a three pointer from Leo Mainoldi bounced off both sides of the rim, the Mad-Crocs just couldn’t slither past their northern neighbors.
If Mainoldi’s shot had gone down, the roof at Palau Sant Jordi would have been blown into the Olympic Stadium. As it was, Sergio Rodriguez hit a three at the other end, and a 10-2 Madrid run pulled them away from their blue-collar counterparts, Jaycee Carroll’s three ball tapping the nail into Fuenlabrada’s coffin.
Kirk Penney helped Fuenla to overcome their lack of interior power by shooting his way to 10 points in the first half. Although they only shot 4/14 from three point range, it seemed like they hit the ones that mattered. Madrid came out firing from deep in the third quarter as well with Sergio Llull, Carroll and Nikola Mirotic hitting successive threes, but the newly-monickered Mad-Croc didn’t break. Penney dished off the pass of the game with a gorgeous look away to Michel Diouf for the jam, a nice counterpoint to Sergio Sanchez’s devastating crossover in the first half, certainly the two highlight plays of the game.
With Mirotic looking laboured after his recent foot injury, it was left to Novica Velickovic to remind folks he still exists, and can significantly help this team. He was active round the rim, made all the right cuts, and finished with authority. In the end, Madrid’s three guard lineup with Rodriguez, Llull and Carroll stretched the floor and buried their opponents. Fuenla’s lack of interior presence stopped them taking advantage at the other end.
Why Real Madrid Won
At times if you were a Real Madrid fan tonight, you probably felt petrified. It’s the fourth quarter, Fuenlabrada is just a few points back and the whole Palau Sant Jordi arena is cheering against your team (welcome to Catalunya, folks). But Madrid stuck to their second half game plan; pound the glass as if you want to break it.
Real outrebounded Fuenlabrada 41 to 31, and the gap seemed wider. Fuenlabrada doesn’t have a true center and they were trying to protect the rim most of the game with stretch 4’s. Real made an adjustment in the second half to attack the paint with combinations of Marty Pocius drives, Novica Velickovic quick hitters, and Felipe Reyes power moves. Real never took their foot off the gas and the more hard drives and tough post-ups, the more Fuenlabrada got into foul trouble and got banged around. Real wins very few games when they don’t score at least 80 points, but tonight they decided to buckle down and take advantage of their post depth. They slowed the game down to the flow that suited them and went at Fuenlabrada til the team from a few kilometers south of them couldn’t handle it anymore.
Why Mad Croc Fuenlabrada Lost
Mike Hall told ELA yesterday that the number one priority was keeping Real Madrid out of fastbreak mode. They did. But as Kirk Penney said after the game, you can’t isolate just one area you’d like to stop with a team this deep and talented.
Truth be told, slowing down Madrid was never going to be enough. Madrid was bigger, longer, and given the bodies they ran on and off the court, they were fresher and thus, faster.
Star Who Sucked
It’s tough to say anybody sucked. We don’t want to bring the quarter finals to a close on a negative note, this was such a positive game, with a raucous atmosphere—Real Madrid fans really are on an island; people unite against them. Carlos Suarez finished with zero points in his 15 minutes, but he did grab five rebounds. He didn’t so much suck as he just wasn’t needed tonight.
Sucker Who Starred
Is Dusko Vujosevic in the house? Earlier tonight, Milenko Tepic hit a shot to quell a Unicaja mini-revolt, and now Novica Velickovic shows up with 13 points in only 16 minutes, adding a little physicality to a team that already has plenty.
Looks like that 2009 Partizan team is getting the band back together. Now if they could just get Uros Tripkovic to RSVP.
Jorge Sanz | F | Real Madrid
Didn’t get any minutes but props to him for making it onto Madrid’s Copa del Rey roster. He was a beastly post player for Real at the L’Hospitalet NIJT, so he’ll get a chance to take his lumps with the big boys soon enough.
Alvaro Munoz | G | Mad-Croc Fuenlabrada
The 21-year-old guard Played in the last minute of the game and was all business right away. He came crashing in for an offensive board and put it back up with ease for his only points. Next time down he crashed again, but wasn’t able to corral the miss. He was pesky on defense and was really fired up to get some playing time. It was only one minute, but they were some of the hardest working 60 seconds you’ll see.
Michel Diouf | F | Mad-Croc Fuenlabrada
Michel wasn’t always sure where to go on offense, but he didn’t mind banging when given the opportunity. He had five rebounds, but he also had five turnovers. At 22 years old there is tons of room for growth with his long frame and willingness to go at the rim, but give him the ball in anything close to an awkward position and don’t expect good things to happen.
Fuenla’s Fans Still Festive After the L
Fuenlabrada didn’t disappear to the locker room, dejected after a game they were right for 35 minutes. They went over to their fans in the far corner and saluted them for a good few minutes. The David v. Goliath trope is well worn, but considering the budgetary gap between the two, the team from just south of Madrid deserve to take a whole load of credit for the way they played. They brightened the end of the quarter final round, and can go home with their heads held high.
Dumb Headline Pun(s) We Almost Used
Penney for Your Shots: Fuenlabrada Can’t Buy a Bucket Late
Kids in the Hall: Real Madrid’s Manly Performance Too Much for Little Brother
Ante-Climactic: Tomic is Quiet but Real Madrid Roars