By Rob Scott / @robscott33 – Thursday 6 February, Malaga, Spain
How it went down
Real Madrid pulled away from Gran Canaria with relative ease to win 83-60. The first points of the Copa del Rey went to Brad Newley but a 10-2 run by the undefeated ACB leaders was only a taste of things to come. Madrid led 19-9 at the first quarter break, Nikola Mirotic with 11 of his own. Mirotic was the beneficiary of some beautiful passing from Rudy Fernandez and Ioannis Borousis, the latter in better game shape physically and mentally than at any time in the last two months. Now unencumbered by the weight of his dense beard, he gave out five assists in the first half and even moved his feet on defense. Brad Newley’s corner three closed the deficit to 10 points but it was to be the last jumpshot Gran Canaria made until just before halftime.
The second quarter saw more of the same: GranCa working hard on defense but even when they shut down Madrid’s first and second option, there was always a bailout play, like the back to back lobs thrown by Sergio Rodriguez to Marcus Slaughter and Fernandez. Only a pair of jerking drives by Ben Hansbrough and a pair of Walter Tavares free throws broke through the active, physical Madrid defense. A spectacular flying block from the weak side by Rudy and the resultant transition layup and bonus shot from Reyes in transition were the highlights of another spurt of dominance from Madrid as they led 41-20 at the half.
The third period belonged to Rudy. A three to answer Hansbrough’s after Draper had detonated a pick and roll felt like the beginning of the end for the Yellows. Throughout the period he jinked, glided and swooped his way across, through and around the paint, driving to score or assist with total control. He recorded eight points and two assists as Madrid extended the lead to 61-43.
Where GranCa had fought tenaciously to stick around in the first half, by the end of the third they were demoralised. The physical and mental effort required to keep up with this Madrid team must take its toll with no reward to be seen on the scoreboard.
A 13-5 run either side of the final quarter break gave some hope of at least bringing the final deficit a little closer, with Tavares and Martin throwing down dunks. A Reyes short jumper put Madrid back up by 18 and the rest of the game was played out in relative comfort.
Coach Laso had time to give Daniel Diez and Salah Mejri some burn late in the fourth, and the Tunisian centre made the most of it. A crushing rejection of a Baez dunk, somehow uncredited by the scorers, was followed with a dunk of his own from a nonchalant no-look dish by Rodriguez. Another block at the rim with Madrid up by 28 seemed just mean, but he was in no mood to quietly play out the string. Diez got in on the action with a three to push the gap to 81-50.
Fernandez and Mirotic led all scorers with 17 each. Reyes followed with 13 and Rodriguez gave out eight assists. Tavares scored 16 for Gran Canaria, Tomas Bellas their only other double figure scorer with 10. Tavares struggled with being fronted in the post but still racked up a 31 ‘valoracion’.
Why Real Madrid Won
They forced GranCa into taking, and missing, shot after shot from midrange, combined with a punishing transition game and the depth to dominate for 40 minutes. Bourousis in particular looked like a rejuvenated force, outfighting everyone for rebounds and flirting with a triple double at halftime. In the end he ‘only’ managed six points, 11 rebounds and five assists after a four-seven-five line at halfway. Rudy, Mirotic and Rodriguez can usually be counted on, but if one of the team’s supposed weak points is this good, it will be very hard to beat them.
Why Gran Canaria Lost
Amongst many other factors, they couldn’t shoot. It seems simple, but if you go into halftime with only four individual scorers, you’d better be able to play unprecedentedly tight defense. Tomas Bellas did his best to contain Sergio Rodriguez off the dribble, and Tavares was strong enough to disrupt post-ups and push players as strong as Mirotic and Bourousis off their spots, but with only a trickle of points going in at the other end, the dam was bound to break eventually.
A star from each team
Real Madrid: Rudy Fernandez was involved in most of their most pleasing offense, and backed up his 17 points with three rebounds, four assists an a block for good measures
Gran Canaria: Walter Tavares is always going to have a height advantage, but the way he moves around the rim – springy and light on his feet – means he’s more than just a beanpole. His 16 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks didn’t really alter the game, but you can’t hold that against him.
Madrid will play the winner of day one’s second quarter final, Unicaja or CAI Zaragoza, on Saturday. It’s tough not to see them as overwhelming favourites in that game too.