Captive and unarmed, Real Madrid emerged from Istanbul on the brink of European elimination after their second resounding defeat (91-68) to Efes in the Euroleague quarter-finals. No team has come from a 2-0 defeat in the history of the competition. So the whites are left on an impossible mission next week at the WiZink Center within the most difficult yet in which they live this season. The loss of Tavares before the game was the last adversity for Laso’s team, dismembered and dismembered, proud but powerless against one of the favorites for the title. During a few minutes of the third quarter, Llull, Carroll, Rudy, Felipe (and Garuba), met in a historical and symbolic quintet at the same time. The Madrid of forever (52 seasons in white between the four) defending the fort and the competitive longevity of a team that awaits reconstruction to face rearmament. Insufficient resources to compete against a vigorous, dynamic and rocky Efes, willing to fight for the title he was flying to last season before suspension due to the pandemic. With Larkin and Micic, 21 and 23 points respectively, as emblems of a full group.
The mission in Istanbul made it difficult for Madrid to warm up. Tavares suffered from the discomfort in the pubis with which the first match of the series ended and was ruled out for the battle. The loss of the Cape Verdean pivot, who had played the 35 matches of the competition (31 of them in the starting five) at an average of 26 minutes on the court, completed the sequence of misfortunes for the whites in a season turned into a martyrdom of setbacks and injuries. From Campazzo’s departure to the NBA at the end of November, until Tavares’ absence on D-Day against Efes; going through Randolph’s long-term layoff and Deck’s unexpected departure to Oklahoma. In five months, Laso had lost three of the four players he used the most last year and this, and, at the worst moment, the coach saw his essential pillar fall, his 2.21m tower (11.5 points , 8.1 rebounds and 18.3 valuation as average contribution). A devastating absence for a resilient team, but with a fair amount of power and resources. Regardless, there is no regret or excuse from Laso on record.
Faced with such a panorama, and without the vital protection of Tavares, the whites defended themselves from the start by bringing together three pivots on the court: Thompkins, Garuba and Tyus. Then captain Felipe Reyes (the oldest scorer in the tournament at 41 years old) joined his shoulder, and, later, Garuba and Vukcevic (19 and 18 years old respectively) replicated the new couple with which Madrid beat Barça at the Palau. Exceptional rotations, unpublished and asymmetrical quintets with which to try to contain an overwhelming Efes, who redoubled his agitation to find the seams of the Madrid plan. With Larkin serving as both a metronome and an artificer, the Turkish team quickly took control of the game and the scoreboard. A triple from Larkin himself (4 of 5 at that time for his team) established a difference of +12 for the locals (27-15, m. 11). And, from there, Madrid began to row against the current. There was hardly any game. On one side, a wall; on the other, impotence.
Efes managed the advantage with solvency despite the efforts of their rival. Madrid could only withstand the onslaught for a while, without the option of ever reducing the disadvantage. Garuba surrendered in the battle, Laprovittola applied himself in the direction and Thompkins contributed 9 points in his first 11 minutes on the track (17 at the end). But the 2 of 13 of the whites in the statistics of triples at halftime (4 of 25 in total) weighed down any attempt at rapprochement by Laso’s team. 32 points in 20 minutes were little argument to compete with the offensive arsenal of Efes (44-32, m. 20). The second half confirmed the inertia of the tie and the passing of the minutes became a penance for Madrid, with disadvantages close to 30 points (87-60, m. 38). The Whites, solid leaders in the ACB with 30 wins in 31 days, left Istanbul on the brink of European elimination. The Efes is launched.
In the other match of the day, Armani Milan repeated their victory over Bayern (80-69) and also placed 2-0 in their series. Messina’s team showed up with a resounding 40-18 run in the 17th minute and then managed to manage the advantage and contain the rival’s attacks. Punter (20 points), Sergio Rodríguez (13 points, two rebounds and four assists) and Leday led the Italian team, which is on track to reach the Final Four in Cologne.