By: George Rowland / @georgerowland
Following the dramatics of the previous game, the crowd was quiet for the beginning of the Real Madrid vs Barcelona game, as many of the Maccabi fans filtered out to begin celebrations or catch their breath. That didn’t stop the Madridstas from showing their discontent as cries of “Puta Barça” rang from the upper level. Especially when former Blanco Ante Tomic was announced.
Both teams looked slick offensively to start the game. Marcelinho Huertas hit a floater which was answered by scores from Nikola Mirotic and Rudy Fernandez, before Kostas Papanikolaou put Barça back into the lead with a three point play. Ioannis Bourousis looked sluggish early in pick and roll defense as Barça consistently looked to attack him, leading the Greek to pick up his second foul after just 3:10 as Huertas attacked him from the top of the key. With Huertas going to the line again after a Darden foul, Barça took an early 6 point lead, which was extended when Huertas once again took advantage of Bourousis, this time finding Tomic rolling to the basket for an alley oop dunk.
With Bourousis on the bench, Real went with Marcus Slaughter at centre and when the American fouled Kostas Papanikoloau Los Blancos found themselves in the penalty with over five minutes left in the quarter. Barça quickly looked to exploit this, as Erazem Lorbek took advantage of a mismatched Tremmell Darden in the post to head to the free throw line. Real’s most consistent offense in the early going was from Nikola Mirotic, who found himself able to beat Lorbek off the dribble for open jump shots.
With Sergio Rodriguez entering the game Real drew back within one at 13-12 after Sergio Llull stole the ball and broke away for an uncontested lay-up. With the game tied at 16 after another Mirotic long two, a Lorbek put back was answered by the MVP Sergio Rodriguez with a pull up three to give Real their first lead at 19-18. The teams traded free throws in the final minute to tie the game at 20 to close the quarter.
Felipe Reyes broke the deadlock at the start of the second quarter as Real looked to attack the basket. Reyes also made a pest of himself on the glass, drawing a foul on Boki Nachbar after Rudy missed a three, which allowed Fernandez to score on the ensuing possession to push the lead to four. On the other hand, Barça continued to draw fouls on Madrid’s centres as Salah Mejri picked up his first, while Slaughter and Bourousis were on the bench with two each. But Tomic couldn’t capitalise at the line and the lead stayed at four. It stayed this way for some time before a Sergio Rodriguez pull up three stretched the lead up to seven, the MVP followed this with two free throws after a Kostas Papanikolaou unsportsmanlike foul. After a Salah Mejri dunk, Madrid had the lead at 11, forcing a Barça timeout, having not scored in over four minutes.
This scoring drought was immediately broken by a Juan Carlos Navarro three, after he curled off a baseline screen, but was immediately mooted by a Felipe Reyes three which got the beserkers out of their seats, and pushed the deficit back to 11. After baskets were traded, Rudy Fernandez picked up his third foul and was forced to the bench. With Boki Nachbar drawing a rebounding foul out of Felipe Reyes, Real’s captain was forced to the bench. With Barça picking things up towards the end of the quarter they managed to pull back within 8, at 37-45.
Barça fundamentally failed offensively when Bourousis wasn’t on the floor for Real and when Huertas wasn’t on court for them. They found it significantly harder to make catches around the rim after a pick and roll.
On the other end of the court Real chould be satisfied with their performance, as they were able to take advantages of Barcelona’s defensive weakness at the power forward position as well as creating options in transition. More concerning for them was the amount of fouls accrued in their front court and the ease at which Barcelona could attack certain players. Furthermore Barça had missed many free throws and open three pointers, perhaps with a little luck the other way, their lead and performance would have been less impressive.
Barca started the second half with Navarro guarding Rudy and Real immediately looked to run Rudy off a number of screens, eventually freeing him to knock down a triple. Madrid kept their foot on the accelerator, with Tremell Darden hitting a corner three and Nikola Mirotic nailing mid-range jumpers. With five minutes remaining in the quarter the Blaugrana had managed to pull themselves within a single digit margin, only for Ioannis Bourousis to hit a three to push it back out to 12.
Madrid began to pull away towards the end of the third as the Chacho began knocking down threes, and Barça lost their discipline. By the time there were two minutes to go in the third the Real lead was over twenty, as the game sat at 68-47. With the lead extended to 73-48 at the end of the third all hope for Barça seemed to be over, and with the game all but over to start the fourth the Beserkers were in full voice as Los Blancos coasted to the finish.
It would be reasonable to say that whichever team lost this game would be disappointed, both had fantastic regular seasons. For Barça to lose to Madrid in a knockout game for the third consecutive time must be painful, especially in a manner such as this. But quite simply their defense was atrocious, despite Madrid shooting an astonishing percentage most of their perimeter shots were unguarded and Barça were consistently lazy on close outs. When they did close out they overcommitted to such an extent that they was no hope of recovery. As soon as Real began to build a commanding lead they did what CSKA could not and capitalised on their lead and momentum to categorically put Barça to bed.