Matching the hysterics, both on the court and amongst the fans, of the first game was always going to be a challenge for El Clasico. Even combined, the fanbases of Real and Barca were dwarfed by the now recovering Maccabi support. The Real support, situated mostly to the left of the upper press tribune, did their best to make some noise but this was always going to be a game where the crowd was of minimal influence.
Barca got off to the stronger start, with Marcelinho Huertas, Ante Tomic, and Kostas Papanikolaou help them into early eight point lead, forcing Pablo Laso to call timeout. A Marcus Slaughter dunk heralded the Real resurgence and they cut Barca’s lead to 13-12 before Xavi Pascual called time out. The arrival of Sergio Rodriguez made all the difference. Chacho’s three to give Real back the lead signalled the Euroleague MVP’s intent. Defensively Real started to click better after getting killed on their own glass early. RMB looked far from steady on D but they did enough to let their offensive power prove telling. At the end of the first it was all square at 20-20.
Real made the early going in the second, Rudy Fernandez giving them a four point advantage for the first time in the game. Rudy had struggled through the opening quarter but seemed to find more comfort as the play became more scrappy. Chacho hit another three and then two frees to push Real further out and with four minutes gone in the frame, Barca had yet to score. Salaj Mejri compounded the pain for Barca. Pascual called timeout with his side trailing 31-20. A three from Juan Carlos Navarro finally got the Blaugrana on the board but Felipe Reyes replied from deep immediately for Real. Rudy kept the pressure on as Real fought to maintain their double digit advantage. Brad Oleson and Tomic brought Barca back within single digits but Real looked well in charge, 45-37, at the break.
Threes from Rudy and Tremell Darden laid the hammer down for Real early, moving them into a 14 point lead early in the third. Whatever plan Barca had to curb Real’s offence, it wasn’t working. Barca dragged it back to single digits again but they needed more than just window dressing. Ioannis Bouroussic got the Berserkers rocking with a three over Tomic as Laso’s troops kept the pressure on Barca. Real, possibly wary of how CSKA’s profligacy cost them earlier, didn’t want to rake take the foot off any time soon. Up stepped Chacho again, fed in the corner by Mirotic. Rudy added another two on a fast break. 61-47 with 2.40 left in the third. Pascaul called timeout and it was looking ever ominous. Another three for Chacho, a block by Mirotic, and this was getting well out of hand. Mirotic closed out the quarter with another three. Madrid, dominant, led 73-48.
As the final frame began, the only question was how much Real would win by. Chacho fed Bourousis and the rout continued. The few Maccabi fans left started to leave, aware of what their side would face on Sunday. The MVP chants rang out for Rodriguez. Such is the talent at Real’s disposal, it’s easy to forget it’s been 19 years since they lifted the last of their 8 Euroleague titles. Mirotic nailed another three, the pounding continued. The minutes ticking by for a squad that doesn’t want to wait until Sunday. Jaycee Carroll got in on the bombardment with another three. Madrid, up 33 with less than 7 minutes to go, kept on coming. Darden, three. The Blaugrana, rocked, started taking it out on the furniture as Papanikolaou kicked the advertising hoarding. Real the victors tonight. Sunday is where we’ll see if they are the best of the best.
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