With 2nd place in the ACB on the line in Madrid last Saturday, it was a sure thing that Madrid was going to take care of business at home. Well, not so fast. Caja Laboral was not coming in to town just to roll over and die.
Each of these teams goes to battle with their floor general as their leader. Caja had the ball primarily in the hands of Marcelo Huertas. This nifty guard is a pure pleasure to watch in person. In one move the crafty Brazilian called for an outlet pass after a turnover, blows past one guy, sneaks in a crossover dribble right by the free throw line, and gives a one dribble move that leads right into an under the basket spin to a lefty layup. To describe it in words does not nearly give the art in motion this move deserves. Huertas finished with 17 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds in an astoundingly good performance.
Madrid countered by giving the rock to Sergio Llull and Pablo Prigioni. These two combine to form a devastating duo with the combination of young fearlessness and mature understanding of game control. Prigioni is the guy who usually brings the ball up the floor and gets the offense going. His job is usually to control the pace of the game and get everyone else involved before he starts looking for his shot. Today Pablo was a little more focused on his scoring game finishing with 22 points and 4 assists.
Llull is a great compliment to Prigioni because of his relentless energy on the court and his consistently devastating outside jumper. Llull finished the game with 23 points making him the leading scorer in the Euroleague last week. The best thing that Llull bring to the table for this team besides his scoring is his intensity and ability in the clutch. He is the one who gets Madrid going on runs during offensive droughts, he pumps up the crowd, and he keeps the team excited when they’re just cruising along.
All three of these players showed up last Saturday night but it was the rest of the Real Madrid squad that didn´t help out much. Caja led all of the game and even had leads of over 15 points in the 3rd quarter. Sergio Llull would not let this team go down in flames and he led the team back to a tie game with a minute and a half left. It was all for nothing though as Madrid didn´t score from there on out and Marcelo Huertas sealed the game with a dazzling layup and foul. The team play at the end of the game propeled Caja to an 80-74 win and 2nd place for the ACB playoffs. Madrid just has to wonder what could have happened if they had put in any kind of offensive effort to start the game. This Madrid team plays in spurts and they will have to get a consistent game plan soon or else their season will be over earlier than they think.