Real Madrid adds ULEB Cup to trophy case!
Real Madrid added the ULEB Cup crown to its extensive collection on Tuesday night with a 75-87 win over Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius at the Spiroudome in Charleroi, Belgium. Felipe Reyes turned in another heroic outing to keep Madrid close in the first half and then Charles Smith erupted with a record-setting performance in the second half to lead Madrid to victory. Smith joined a select list of stars as the ULEB Cup Final MVP as he finished with 19 points by making six three-pointers – a record for most triples in the final. Smith tied another final game record with 3 blocked shots. Madrid set team records with 10 threes and 6 blocks. The result gives Madrid, the winningest team in European basketball history, its first European title in a decade after the club came up short in the ULEB Cup final here three years ago. Real now has 14 continental titles – including eight Euroleague championships. It will now have a chance to add to that total next season as with the victory, Real clinched a ticket to play in the 2007-08 edition of the Euroleague. Madrid also denied L. Rytas the chance to become the first team to win the ULEB Cup twice. L. Rytas hung in throughout the first half and led 41-40 at halftime, but several key fouls early in the second half limited the Lithuanian champs' defense and Smith and Louis Bullock took over with separate 2-10 and 1-11 runs. L. Rytas never recovered and Madrid celebrated its first ULEB Cup crown. Bullock and Reyes finished with 16 each and Axel Hervelle had 10 for Madrid. Reyes also grabbed 8 rebounds. Matt Nielsen had 11 points and 8 rebounds and Kareem Rush added 10 for L. Rytas in a losing effort.
Madrid won the opening tip and Alex Mumbru needed just 15 seconds to hit a turnaround jumper for the game's first points. Defensive matchups were as expected, with Arturas Jomantas guarding Bullock, Mumbru trying to stop Rush and Marijonas Petravicius on Reyes. L. Rytas went scoreless in the opening minute until Jomantas made a free throw. Reyes scored in the low post, but Petravicius copied him to make it 3-4. Reyes provided a highlight with an off-balance three-point play before Hervelle finished a four-chance Madrid offense with a put-back dunk for a 3-9 lead. Nielsen scored inside and Rush buried his first three-pointer to bring L. Rytas back. Jomantas capped a 7-0 run with a short jumper that gave his team its first lead, 10-9. Munbru and Petravicius traded layups before Reyes hit a floater shot to put Madrid back ahead, 12-13, after 6 minutes. Reyes added another basket, but a put-back layup by Jomantas got L. Rytas within 14-15. Hervelle and Roberts Stelmahers exchanged free throws. Kerem Tunceri came in to put more pressure on L. Rytas's backcourt. Madrid kept powering the boards and Mumbru grabbed another put-back layup, only to see Ivan Koljevic erase it with free throws. Tunceri stepped up with a three-pointer that gave Madrid an 18-22 lead at the end of an exciting first quarter.
Nielsen opened the second quarter with a bomb from downtown, as Madrid now had trouble finding Reyes against Eurelijus Zukauskas. Smith came through from downtown to keep Madrid ahead, 21-25. Rush took over with a six-meter jumper, but Madrid then brought Bullock back to provide instant offense with a driving layup. Stelmahers returned too as L. Rytas had started to lose control on offense. Reyes finally beat Zukauskas with his second three-point play to give Madrid a 7-point lead. Tomas Delininkaitis rescued L. Rytas with a triple and Zuakuskas added a jump hook, as Madrid had trouble finding its way to the basket and took too many long shots. Delininkaitis capped a 7-0 run with a reverse layup that tied the game at 30-30. Reyes remained a rock for Madrid with free throws. Raul Lopez fed Mumbru for a fast break layup, which Zukauskas bettered with a layup-plus-foul. Reyes scored in a one-on-one situation, but Stelmahers answered with a driving layup to keep L. Rytas within 1. Bullock buried one from downtown, causing L. Rytas to call timeout at 35-39. The Lithuanian champs came back with 6 straight points from Joao Paulo Batista to regain the lead. A free throw by Mumbru fixed the halftime score at 41-40. L. Rytas's balanced offense paid off, as eight players had scored at least 4 points in the first half. Reyes and Mumbru combined for 23 first-half points for Madrid.
Smith fired in his second three-pointer right at the start of the second half, but Petravicius answered with a put-back layup to tie the score at 43-43. Madrid improved its aggressiveness on defense, but L. Rytas kept its initial matchups, with Jomantas shutting down Bullock. He picked up his third and fourth foul in the same minute, however, and returned to the bench. Bullock immediately delivered with a penetration and Hervelle added a left-handed layup to put Madrid ahead 43-47. Smith made a free throw and an offensive rebound by Reyes allowed Hervelle to cap a 2-10 run with more foul shots. Petravicius and Blagota Sekulic traded free throws, as L. Rytas opted for a more dynamic lineup with Delininkaitis and Mindaugas Lukauskis at both wings. Nielsen shined with a driving layup, but Smith answered from downtown for a 47-55 Madrid lead. Bullock buried a huge three-pointer that gave Madrid its first double-digit lead, 48-58, as L. Rytas called a much-needed timeout. Bullock continued to pace Madrid with a fast break layup and by the time Smith buried an outstanding fade-away three-pointer, his team had broken the game open through a 1-11 run. Koljevic hit free throws and banked in a triple to give L. Rytas some hope at 53-63. Bullock added more free throws and Tunceri shined with a driving layup, but three-pointers by Delininkaitis and a red-hot Koljevic got L. Rytas within 58-67. A driving layup by Lopez gave Madrid a 58-69 lead after three quarters.
Rush took over with a three-pointer and then matched Sekulic's layup with a driving basket to get L. Rytas within 63-71 early in the final period. Smith buried his fifth triple – the most ever for a player in a ULEB Cup final – to keep Madrid comfortably ahead, 63-74, with 8 minutes to go. Time was running out for L. Rytas, which now tried short possessions without much success. An offensive rebound by Reyes allowed Smith to nail yet another triple, making L. Rytas call timeout down 14. Madrid now had full control of the game, as L. Rytas found no answers on offense. Batista tried to ignite L. Rytas with a free throw and Jomantas added a power layup in yet another quick transition, but Madrid kept following its game plan, powering the offensive boards and keeping its shooters involved. Sekulic stepped up with a three-point play, but L. Rytas was not done. Nielsen and Batista scored around the basket, and by the time Nielsen scored again, L. Rytas was within 72-80 with less than 3 minutes to go. Bullock put the victory on ice with a sweet fade-away jumper and Nielsen missed free throws with 1:10 to go. A big triple by Raul Lopez allowed Madrid to seal the win in style and start celebrating that, after 10 years, the team lifted a continental trophy and won its first-ever ULEB Cup title!!!
Tuesday, April 10, 2007