Countless nerves, two short handed teams, and one wild crowd ensured drama was going to be on the menu no matter what at the Stark Arena
Real Madrid took Game 3 having looked destined to not even make a game of it because of course this series between Los Blancos and Partizan must continue to bend our minds for at least one more game. The fans brought the colour, the players brought the drama, and Edy brought the smash.
It looked like a walk
Partizan opened on a 12-0 run that ran only 2 minutes and 30 seconds but Real Madrid felt absolutely every moment of it as they looked like a team beaten before the game even began. We’ll get to the why, don’t worry.
Even after the visitors, who were down 2-0 in the series and needed to win this, got some offence going it hardly looked a contest for most of the first half. Everything Partizan did offensively worked. Real didn’t really do much offensively and that was seemingly the story of the game.
I am that guy when playing Street Fighter, Tekken, or whatever that just spams something that works and hopes it is enough. It’s generally not advisable at a semi-reasonable level of video games, let alone in the highest level of basketball yet it worked and then some for Real Madrid.
Real Madrid just put the ball in the hands of Walter Tavares over and over again, spamming the paint, and it forced harsh adjustments from Partizan on D that brought the rest of the Real line-up into play and gave them real options offensively. By the half, this wasn’t a coronation. Deep in the third, Real looked the flat-out better team despite their absences.
The Partizan fans excelled
The home crowd was going to be special at this one no matter what but, wow, give yourselves an enormous pat on the back Partizan fans. Even from the far from engaging environs of my kitchen, it was impossible to miss the brilliance of the pre-game display from the home fans in this one.
Throughout the game, they knew their role to be in this and to be loud. None of this surprised anyone watching and it certainly doesn’t surprise anyone reading this but that doesn’t make it any less worthy of praise. The Partizan fans have been praised throughout the season for bringing something special and this is why. Simply brilliant from the home fans.
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Having a willing villain helps
There seemed, at least from neutral circles, to be a feeling that this was going to feel like a coronation going into the game and there was little reason to doubt that early on. While spamming Edy helped, Mario Hezonja being an eager and willing party pooper certainly aided the drama in this.
His double-double, highlighted by his particularly strong performance on the boards, was exactly what this clash needed from Real Madrid. The man unhappy with the narrative who was more than willing to put the work in to be a spoiler in a big way.
And we got what we really needed
In the middle of the 4th quarter, Tavares went up and delivered a violent dunk that got the type of stunned silence reaction that few moments can from the Partizan faithful. From here on out it turned into a fight of two sides trying to show who could raise it more.
Drama, give me drama, that’s all I want from the playoffs and my word have these two sides delivered. James Nunnally’s cold blooded three ball with just over 3 minutes got everyone wild and rowdy. This was the denouement this evening deserved.
Hezonja shot into a sea of black shirted supporters with an awful airball as 97 seconds remained with the game tied. Either side of that, Partizan had back to back possessions where they flat out overthought things to fail to score.
Then it came. Nigel Williams-Goss with the trifecta to put Real up by three with essentially a possession left on the clock for Partizan. Nunnally missed the three, Hezonja on the board again and game.
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The, eh, other thing
Partizan will have wanted to win, of course, but there are much worse situations for a team to find itself in than Partizan. They know that, no matter what, Kevin Punter will be available again should they be in an elimination game situation. It’s not perfect, obviously, but if you’re going to drop a game like this then at least there’s some solace in knowing that Punter won’t serve the second game of his suspension at the Final Four in Kaunas.
Obviously, that involves getting to Kaunas and Partizan have two more chances to do so. They’ll want to only need one. To do that, it comes down simply to working out how they stop Tavares utterly wrecking their defensive structure the way he did so very often in Game 3. Do that, and Real need to find far more questions to ask of Partizan defensively. Short-handed, it’s going to be difficult for them to do that
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