Consider the crisis over. A week after being submerged in controversy with the firing and reinstatement of head coach Ettore Messina, Kinder Bologna has come as close as possible to qualifying for the Final Four after it swamped Real Madrid 58-86 on the road in the Spanish capital to take a commanding lead in Group F. The victory puts Kinder at 3-0 halfway through the six-game Top 16. With Ural Great's home loss to Efes Pilsen in Russia earlier Wednesday, the other three teams in Group F are now all 1-2. Kinder took over a sloppy game just after halftime by vaulting on a 4-19 run that stretched its four-point halftime lead to almost 20. Though the game saw the return of Rashard Griffith to Euroleague play, Kinder did not need him much. Matjaz Smodis sparked that third-quarter blitz with 9 straight points on his way to a floor-high 24 for the night. Marko Jaric added 21 points, Emanuel Ginobili 15 and Antoine Rigaudeau 11. For Madrid, Alberto Angulo was best with 16 points and Zan Tabak added 14.
Defense was the name of the game from the start, as both teams played physically when without the ball, and neither shot very well with it. Griffith was active in his return, getting the game's first field goal, plus a couple rebounds, plus a block, but with nothing much going in the basket otherwise, a full 7 minutes passed with neither team capable of leading by more than two points. It was 11-11 with 3 minutes left when Madrid faltered, allowing Kinder a 2-8 run to finish off the quarter. Jaric, the most active player on the floor at that point, started it off. Matjaz Smodis picked up two of the other baskets, including a rebound as the first 10 minutes ran out with Kinder taking the biggest lead yet, 13-19.
When Jaric opened the second quarter with a three-pointer that made it 15-22, it looked like Kinder might be going for full control. But Madrid had its own firestarter at guard now, an Italian in fact, Stefano Attruia, whose three-pointer and follow-up steal led to 5 points that got the home team within 20-22. Kinder responded with another 2-8 run, including the first two baskets by Emanuel Ginobili, and seemed to settle in at 22-30 for an easy ride to the half. It was not easy. Despite Dragan Tarlac limping off the court after colliding with Alessandro Frosini on a rebound, Madrid rallied for its own 6-2 run to finish the half, with half of those points by Alberto Angulo. They pulled into halftime at 28-32, with neither team having really established itself, which only meant that either could take off after the break.
It was Kinder that did the taking off. The visitors turned their defense up to another level, and it quickly became obvious that Madrid could not follow, not with several players well below 100% physically and others shooting poorly in the face of Kinder's pressure. Meanwhile, the baskets came easy for Kinder now, for no one moreso than Smodis, who took an offensive board on the fastbreak and got two freebies out of it, sank another shot in close, stepped outside and drained a three-pointer, then got to the line again. A 4-19 run that lasted 5 minutes and put the visitors ahead 32-51 was punctuated for the disappointed Madrid fans by Zan Tabak, their best hustler in the first half, missing a dunk. Kinder would lead 37-57 after 30 minutes, having allowed the locals little more than 12 points per quarter and finishing the third one 9-25. There was only mopping up to do in the final 10 minutes, but thinking of all the potential ties and tie-breakers in a short round, Messina left his big guns on the floor. They gave him a 28-point win just in case the extra points are needed to qualify for the Final Four.
Wednesday, March 20, 2002