Real Madrid was a basketball team that has become a psychological enigma. Laso’s cyclothymic team was looking to seal second place in the regular phase of the Euroleague against Bayern, but ended up starring in an inexplicable shipwreck. The most unheard of of the many that he accumulates in two and a half calamitous months. The Whites won by 20 points in the 24th minute (61-41) and by 19 five minutes later (75-56). What followed was an inconceivable collapse. Bayern managed a 13-38 run in the last quarter and won the WiZink Center (88-97).
Madrid remained in fourth place in the standings (which gives it home field advantage in the quarter-final tie), but plunged into the greatest crisis of identity, play and results of the Laso era; with the thunderous silence of the Palace as an echo of their tribulations (15 defeats in the last 26 games). Estrella Roja’s victory against Efes (93-85) leaves open who will be Madrid’s rival in the quarterfinals until next Wednesday, when Maccabi will close the regular phase in Tel Aviv. If Maccabi beat Fenerbahçe they will be fifth and will face the whites. If Maccabi loses, Madrid’s rival at the crossroads will be Efes.
Laso’s team was playing against Bayern for the immediate present, to alleviate the anguish of a galloping crisis. The future in the medium term, to win a less steep matchup against Monaco than against Efes or Maccabi in the quarterfinals. And the definitive horizon for, in the event of reaching the Final Four in Belgrade, doing it on the most encompassable side of the draw, avoiding Barça until a hypothetical final. All the accounts collapsed for the whites, who ended up with their faces disfigured and their souls kidnapped by doubts. The argument was the strangest and most surprising of all possible. The patrons of the Palace paraded in astonishment, without the strength even to project their disenchantment on a team that they progressively stopped recognizing this year until it is now an unfathomable enigma.
The game against the Germans was worth three times and Laso’s men applied themselves in facing it with maximum concentration from the starting blocks. A run that began with five three-pointers from Madrid in the first six minutes, to deny the umpteenth scoring blackout suffered in Tenerife (59 points), and Tavares as the best assistant. Heurtel was left out of the squad, Williams-Goss did not appear until midway through the second quarter, and Abalde acted as a point guard in the staging to tighten the pressure on a Bayern supported by Radosevic. Madrid’s sixth three-pointer, by Randolph, on the first ball he touched as soon as he entered the game, prompted the Whites’ first breakout (27-17, m. 11). And with the seventh bingo from 6.75, this time by Taylor, Laso’s team began to shake off their doubts. The switches seemed well turned on, but the whites have jumped so many times in recent months that the next battle was to watch the differential.
The flow of alternating current and direct current oscillated in that section before a Bayern that moved in flashes. The drop in tension this time was from the German defense. Madrid’s triple percussion reached the brilliant balance of 12 of 20 at that point (60%) and the local escape was brilliant (49-30). There was still another three-pointer left for the locals before reaching intermission and Causeur holed it (52-34, m. 20). Unleashed from the perimeter (13 of 22 at the break; 17 of 30 afterwards), Laso’s team only scored baskets in play from 6.75. A total of eight triples (Randolph, Taylor, Llull, Rudy, Deck, Williams-Goss, Abalde and Causeur) and four free throws. Not a basket of two.
A storm that, however, did not finish consolidating Madrid or demoralizing Bayern. The Whites were on the way to their record for triples (19), but they stayed at 18 of 36. The German team, shot by Sisko, Jaramaz, Thomas and Obst, made the rubber until they appeared threatening in the rearview mirror. From 61-41 in the 24th minute, to 63-52 three later. And from 75-56 before entering the finish line, to 80-76 with six minutes to go. There, after a triple by Thomas, Laso’s men were definitely scared. The memory of two and a half calamitous months left them stiff again, paralyzed. Radosevic with a mate and Thomas himself, with his second triple, turned that fear into a jindama and the onslaught took the white team ahead. If Barça and Madrid make it through their respective knockout rounds, they would meet in the semifinal of the Final Four, on May 19 in Belgrade. The classic that is sure is this Sunday at the Palau in the ACB. In the duel of the first round at the Palace, on January 23, the ordeal of an unrecognizable Madrid began.
Laso: “We have been a team without soul”
Pablo Laso’s greatest pride in his 11-season career as Real Madrid coach was building a “recognized and recognizable” team. Now not even the Real Madrid coach recognizes his group. “I would like to give a clear answer to the reasons why the team has disappeared, but sometimes it is not easy to give an explanation,” he managed to say at the press conference after the shipwreck against Bayern. “Mentally we stopped believing in what we were doing on offense and defense. That is something that happens to us in some games, sometimes it happens at the beginning and other times at the end. We have to find that consistency that we have seen in the last quarter that we don’t have”, summarized Laso before leaving the headline of the night. “We have been a soulless team in the last 10 minutes and I don’t know why. We all have to focus, me the first, ”he settled.
Best of five matches in 2-2-1 format. Between April 19 and May 4
Real Madrid-Maccabi or Efes
Armani Milan-Efes or Maccabi
The Final Four will be played between May 19 and 21 at the Stark Arena in Belgrade
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