Survival lesson for Madrid in the land of tsars

The whites cling to the Euroleague with a devastating finish from Tavares, previously booked with four fouls. Zenit rallied 14 points and won by 6 in the fourth quarter.


The Euroleague, where every game matters. That is the motto. That a duel in a regular phase has a final rank has more of a cliché than of reality; but this Thursday in Saint Petersburg, in the land of tsars, the cliché was skipped. Madrid won in a tenacious fight (71-75), he is alive because he is a wild competitor beyond his circumstances, which are not the best now. I live because in 48 hours he buried the image of a certain neglect before Khimki, when he had it easier, and he took his voracious version against Zenit when he painted more complicated. He came out to bite, to die on his feet and survived. And that after his departure in a whirlwind, with which he amassed a +14 (15-29), he was bagged by the adjustments of Xavi Pascual and the talent of his Zenit, although without ever breaking completely (white merit) .

The Russian team closed the gap and got to travel six up with less than eight minutes to go: 62-56. It did not go from there because Kevin Pangos was left to zero in the second part (a medal for Taylor, even if it is one of the ones that are shared) and because they all did the work of a little ant (Causeur, Carroll, Thompkins, Garuba ...) until the devastating irruption with four fouls behind Tavares (19 points and 9 rebounds). And Deck (15 points), also a key factor. One more victory against a direct rival (and the tiebreaker on his side), one less step in an agonizing sprint to reach the quarterfinals. It requires as a minimum challenge at least two other victories (or perhaps three) in the remaining six days. Since the stumble in Moscow on Tuesday it was pouring rain, now the rain has turned thin.

Great attitude and great game from the starting five. Alocen faced the hoop, legs and talent to take advantage and score or assist; Deck hit everything he could; Taylor made Pangos seem less; Garuba defended hard and Tavares was the usual intimidator and also the scorer in the heights, the finisher of the actions of his teammates, all very incisive, which created imbalances. The rotation entered the equation (Causeur, Abalde, Thompkins ...) and Madrid showed that it was not a starting five, but a dynamic block. He reached the 14 advantage (15-29) and, then, the local star, the ex-Azulgrana Pangos, read Laprovittola's defense and took the bull by the horns.

Taylor returned urgently to quell the Canadian rebellion, but between the fact that Tavares was no longer on the track and Zenit's defense was different, the white offensive spring reduced its flow to a minimum. The inertia did not change yet (29-38 at halftime), it would do so at the restart with a 29-14 run that would have knocked out almost everyone almost any day; not to this resilient Madrid, not this Thursday in Saint Petersburg.

Nine consecutive points from the gunner Billy Baron (two free throws, a 3 + 1 and a triple) stretched the local gum: 58-52. "There was a need," Laso would say later, so Madrid bite the bullet and without Tavares, prematurely on the bench after pointing out a fourth staff that he did not commit. Real became strong behind, took attacking fouls (perhaps the bad conscience of the referees helped), Carroll holed a couple of baskets and Tyus tapped ...

They remained six minutes (64-60) and Tavares returned, another twist back with Lapro and Deck active and successful in front, direct to the rim to turn the sock (69-70). Less than a minute and a half, the Tavares show arrived: blockade and 2 + 1 brutal on Poythress after playing a lateral block and continuation with Deck (an old formula), the Argentine was the base from the kickoff in that decisive action. Maybe the play of the game. Then Edy hit Baron's 3-pointer and Causeur got it all on track with two free throws. Live.

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