Real Madrid took a huge step forwards to reach its initial goal of winning Group D by downing visiting Unics Kazan. Both teams join a four-way tie with PAOK and Crvena Zvezda, all with a 6-3 record. Madrid, however, already has the tie-break advantage against its three opponents and faces Dexia Mons-Hainaut in its final game in this group. Madrid will be first if it beats Mons on the road, not depending on other results. Meanwhile, Unics hosts PAOK in a big showdown in Kazan, in which both teams can go anywhere from first to fourth. Charles Smith led the winners with 17 points. Axel Hervelle added 13, Louis Bullock had 12, Marko Tomas 10 while Edu Hernandez-Sonseca posted a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds for Madrid. Dusko Savanovic had 14 points for Unics while Darjus Lavrinovic added 13. It was a balanced game throughout the first half, but Tomas and Bullock fueled a 12-2 run which allowed Madrid to get a 41-30 lead right after the break. The Lavrinovic brothers kept Unics within 52-47 late in the third quarter, but Madrid boosted its margin to 65-49 and cruised to a well-deserved, decisive win.
Darjus Lavrinovic scored inside in Unics' first possession but Tomas answered from downtown and Sonseca buried a mid-range jumper for a 5-2 Madrid lead. Unics kept attacking the basket and found a go-to guy in Yahor Meshchakarou, who followed a close basket with a three-point play. Bullock stepped up with a second-chance basket but Savanovic dunked it and added a free throw for a 7-10 Unics edge. Madrid had been limited to just 2 points in more than 6 minutes until Bullock stepped up with consecutive baskets to get the hosts within 11-12 at the end of the first quarter. Madrid found its scoring reference in Smith, who had 6 points and a couple of steals in a 8-0 run which gave the hosts a 19-14 lead early in the second quarter. Ksystof Lavrinovic shined with a three-point play and Meshcharakou added a close basket for a 19-19 tie. Raul Lopez hit a triple but Savanovic stroke from downtown in a 0-8 Unics run highlighted by Darjus Lavrinovic's wild dunk which forced Ratko Varda to leave the game with an ankle injury. Smith scored in penetration, Hervelle added a fast break layup and Bullock a wild three-point play in a 11-1 Madrid run which Reyes capped with a free throw for a 33-28 edge. Mateen Cleaves stepped up with a layup but Bullock beat the guests' zone defense with a triple and Kerem Tunceri added another one from downtown to give Madrid its biggest margin that far, 39-30, at halftime.
Tomas scored in the paint after the break, and then beat Stombergas' jumper with a three-point play to give Madrid a 44-32 lead. Unics improved its defense right away, while Darjus Lavrinovic hit a triple from the top of the key and Petr Samoilenko added a driving layup to get the guests within 44-37. Tunceri stepped up with one from downtown while Reyes added an easy layup to make Unics call timeout at 50-38. Darjus Lavrinovic scored twice in the paint, as Unics switched back to zone defense. Savanovic added a three-pointer in a 0-9 run which Ksystof Lavrinovic capped with a fast break layup. Hervelle buried a triple and Meshcharakou scored inside to fix the score at 56-49 after three quarters. Smith buried a corner triple early in the final period while Sonseca fired in a jumper for a 61-49 Madrid lead. Unics went scoreless for more than 5 minutes, while free throws by Sonseca and a power layup by Hervelle sealed the win, 65-49, after a 10-0 run. Both fought for points differential now midway through the final period, as Unics beat Madrid 100-94 in Kazan. Smith buried back-to-back triples and Sonseca dunked it to make Madrid seal a big win in style and get closer to win difficult Group D.
Tuesday, January 9, 2007