Real Madrid returns to the ULEB Cup final! Real Madrid made it to its second-ever title game in as many ULEB Cup appearances by thrashing Unics Kazan 84-63 in front of 15,000 fans at Palacio Vistalegre in the Spanish capital on Tuesday night. Madrid overcame a 7-point deficit from the first leg in Kazan, Russia, to win the series and set up a clash with Lietuvos Rytas in the title game at the Spiroudome in Charleroi, Belgium, on April 10. Madrid now has a chance to win one of the few titles that does not belong to its outstanding roll of honors, while L. Rytas will fight to become the first team to lift a ULEB Cup trophy twice. Louis Bullock led the winners with 27 points, bouncing back from his poor performance in the first leg, but Felipe Reyes become the game hero with a monster double-double of 23 points and 16 rebounds, completely outplaying the Lavrinovic twins. Reyes matched a ULEB Cup elimination rounds record with 9 offense rebounds. Blagota Sekulic added 12 points and Axel Hervelle had 11 for Madrid. Darjus Lavrinovic had 13 points for Unics, Dusko Savanovic added 12 and Jarod Stevenson 10. Madrid used outstanding defense to break the game in the third quarter and found a go-to guy in Bullock, who had 6 points in a 9-0 run that allowed the hosts to break the series open, 66-49, after 30 minutes. Unics never recovered and Madrid sealed a ticket to the ULEB Cup final.
Reyes needed just 15 seconds to find a put-back basket, but Saulius Stombergas answered with a big three-pointer for a 2-3 Unics lead. Hervelle answered from beyond the arc, as Madrid kept powering the offensive board. Stombergas fired in his second bomb from downtown and Stevenson scored inside, but another triple by Hervelle tied it at 8-8. Both teams went scoreless for 2 intense minutes until Savanovic and Bullock joined the three-point shootout for an 11-11 tie. Savanovic paced Unics with free throws, but Reyes scored again with his fourth offensive rebound. The game turned into a physical battle in which Reyes became Madrid's offensive reference. His tip-in caused Unics to call timeout at 15-13. Bullock capped a 6-0 run with a driving layup that Savanovic bettered with a triple. Reyes shined with a three-point play and added a power layup before Ksystof Lavrinovic got Unics within 22-18 after 10 minutes.
Sekulic beat the shot-clock buzzer with an incredible three-pointer, but Sergei Chikalkin quickly answered with a mid-range jumper. Raul Lopez buried a triple from the corner to put Madrid ahead in the series, 28-20. However Stevenson responded from downtown. Hervelle's dunk gave the hosts a 30-23 Madrid lead. Darjus Lavrinovic scored in the paint and then fed Egor Meshcharakou for an easy layup to get Unics within 30-27. Reyes made free throws, but Meshcharakou buried a big triple to bring Unics back to life, 32-31. Bullock fired in an outstanding triple, but Darjus Lavrinovic dunked it and Stombergas added a tip-in to cause Madrid to call timeout at 35-35. Stevenson capped a 0-7 Unics run with one from downtown, but Hervelle hit his third triple to tie it at 38-38. Bullock took over with a put-back layup, but Savanovic made free throws off an Unics timeout to tie the game again. However more foul shots by Bullock and a tip-in by Sekulic gave Madrid a 44-40 halftime lead.
Reyes continued to pace Madrid after the break with yet another put-back layup, which Darjus Lavrinovic matched with a five-meter jumper. Sekulic followed a layup-plus-foul with an easy basket to put Madrid ahead in the series, 51-42. Unics called a much-needed timeout and Darjus Lavrinovic shined with a power layup. Bullock answered from downtown, but Darjus Lavrinovic took over with a triple from the corner to tie the series, 54-47. Unics entered the foul bonus and Bullock quickly stepped up with free throws and a huge three-pointer to make it a 12-point game, 59-47. Unics switched to zone defense, but problems kept coming up at the other end. The guests went scoreless for more than 3 minutes, while Charles Smith capped a 9-0 run with a bomb from downtown. Unics went back to man-to-man defense and Savanovic stepped up with a layup. A free throw by Alex Mumbru and a layup by Sekulic gave Madrid a 66-49 margin after three quarters.
Unics needed a quick comeback to get back into the series early in the final period, but it didn't happen as Madrid, pushed by an incredible crowd, simply kept rolling. Kerem Tunceri buried a triple to make it a 20-point game, 69-49. Stevenson hit a jumper, in virtually the first open shot Unics found in the second half. Reyes made free throws and Bullock added a driving layup, but Chikalkin answered from downtown and Darjus Lavrinovic added free throws to get Unics within 73-56. Madrid tried to avoid trouble with a timeout and soon got back on track. Bullock shined with another driving layup and Reyes added a free throws with his 9th offensive rebound. The outcome of the series was clear and thousands of Madrid fans celebrated that their team is back to yet another ULEB Cup final!
Tuesday, March 20, 2007