Real Madrid failed again with pithing. 48 hours after losing to Efes in Istanbul after wasting a 10-point lead with nine minutes to go, Laso’s team collapsed again against Maccabi in another disastrous end of the match (75-74). This time, the madridistas accumulated nine rental points to face the last six minutes but, in that stretch, they did not score a basket again and the onslaught of Maccabi, with the referee’s permission, took them ahead. The good performance of Yabusele, Tavares and Poirier was cut short by the approach of Evans, Nunnally and Wilbekin. The last quarter closed with a partial 16-8 and only three baskets in play for Madrid, once again unable to finish off the job.
In Tel Aviv came the 12th Madrid defeat in the last 22 games, the fifth consecutive away in the Euroleague. Laso’s men were left without slack due to their bad head and, in the squeeze, the pressure from the Israeli fans of the Mano de Elías, the arbitration editorializing and the lack of pulse of the madridista players sealed another defeat. From 24 assists to 17 turnovers. In the final moments, Llull missed a penetrating shot, Tavares’ subsequent rebound was resolved with a jump between two, and Yabusele’s last three-pointer crashed into the rim.
Madrid left the Sinan Erdem in Istanbul brooding over the doubts of their 11th defeat in 21 games, but with the prize of guaranteeing home court advantage in the quarter-final tie, and the certainty of having found a brilliant quintet on which to build the rearmament . Laso repeated the line-up and the formula to face the duel against Maccabi, with Williams-Goss, Hanga, Deck, Yabusele and Tavares sharpening the purpose of amendment. The Madrid team repeated the fluidity shown against Efes and improved their success from the perimeter. He only lacked defensive consistency to sustain an effervescent staging led by Yabusele. The French power forward showed off with 14 points and 4 of 5 triples in the first nine minutes, Hanga and Tavares dominated the rebound and Williams-Goss moved the gears judiciously. But, first Keenan Evans, and later James Nunnally escaped the visitors’ radars and balanced the contest before the break (41-44, m. 20).
A matter of continuity and character, Madrid sought to close the sequence of four consecutive away defeats (Fenerbahçe, Zalgiris, Estrella Roja and Efes) against the lucky Maccabi, the main beneficiary of the definitive exclusion of the Russian teams by going from 13th to 6th ranking position. A combination that brings a possible pairing of both teams closer in the fight for the Final Four. And La Mano de Elías raised the thermostat of its boiler to mark territory for the present and future. After the break, the atmosphere and the game thickened, and Maccabi responded to their fans with an 8-2 run that gave them an initiative on the scoreboard (49-46, m. 24). The locals looked for the clash to stop the run of the Madrid team, which took time to find the switches again from the perimeter. Until Heurtel appeared with eight consecutive points (two triples) and an assist to unleash his men again (51-57, m. 27).
Deck also woke up, Heurtel made his third triple, and Poirier linked two baskets to shoot Madrid just before entering the finish line (57-66, m. 29). And, although Nunnally, Wilbekin and Evans rowed to rejoin Maccabi with triples, Laso’s men gritted their teeth to solve the sprint with greater solvency than against Efes. But the blackout, the collapse and the defeat were repeated. Laso’s team wasted a handful of attacks to overcome the psychological barrier of the 10 advantage and Evans squeezed the surrender of the Israelis. From 65-74 it went to 71-74 and Madrid suffered a déjà vu. Nunnaly missed the tying attempt from the 3-point range, but Williams did hit a basket from dovecote which again unleashed the jindama on the visitors (73-74, with 1m 13s to go). Heurtel ate up the ensuing possession, Wilbekin made both free throws after a controversial free kick from Williams-Goss and Madrid were down a point with 35 seconds to go. Heurtel wasted another triple. Llull took charge of the situation, missing a penetrating shot under Wilbekin’s encouragement, and Tavares’s subsequent rebound ended in a jump between two after claws from Caloiaro, Evans, Nunnally and even Williams. The final ball fell into the hands of Yabusele, who played a very forced triple from the corner that crashed into the rim. Another unfinished job from Laso’s team.
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