Big-name NBA refugees Rudy Fernandez, Serge Ibaka and Tiago Splitter will soon be heading back to the ‘States, thus making yesterday’s Real Madrid-Valencia Basket game the last appearance for each in Spain in 2011-12. Fernandez and Ibaka left Los Blancos in quite good position, leading the way to the 81-64 win against the short-handed Valencia before a crowd of just under 11,000; thanks to the margin of victory, Madrid is in a statistical tie with FC Barcelona atop the Liga Endesa table and is just six points behind the Blaugrana in overall point differential.
Highlights and extrapolated game summary follow.
Real Madrid, thanks to outstanding defense in the second half, overcame Valencia Basket in the last game for both teams’ NBA players: Rudy Fernandez, Serge Ibaka and Tiago Splitter.
All three players starred in Madrid on Sunday, but it was Sergio Llull with speed and quality play who broke open the clash in the third period, in which Los Blancos went on a 20-9 in which only Splitter was able to score for the vistors.
Fernandez with 17 points and Splitter with 19 were the top scorers of the match, while Ibaka was instrumental underneath the glass and on defense wherever needed by coach Pablo Laso.
Valencia got off to an early 10-3 lead while depending on Splitter in lieu of the injured Nik Caner-Medley. After Laso substituted Ibaka and Felipe Reyes for Fernandez and Llull, Madrid was able to make it 16-12 after 10 minutes.
Valencia charged back in the second period, finding first Rafa Martinez and then A.J. Ogilvy to level the score at 28 after 26 minutes. Ibaka reentered the game and capped Splitter for the quarter. Thanks to Carlos Suarez, Nikola Mirotic and mastery of defensive rebounding, Real Madrid took a 38-32 lead into the break.
Despite the reappearance of Splitter with five straight points, Los Blancos, with more great D and two extraordinary buckets by Fernandez and Llull, were able to extend their lead to 12 points in the final 4:47 of the third quarter (49-37).
Llull had gone into a trance and everything went in, while Valencia went ice cold. Splitter six minutes later hit two free throws to end a 13-0 Madrid run at 55-39 with 1:31 remaining in the quarter.
Valencia managed just nine points in the third: All nine by Splitter. The game ended anticlimactically – not including the ejection of Florent Pietrus – with Laso emptying his bench in the meaningless fourth quarter.
81 – Real Madrid (16 +22 +20 +23): Llull (7), Suarez (8), Fernandez (17), Mirotic (8), Ante Tomic (6); Reyes (16), Mirza Begic (3), Sergio Rodriguez (3), Jaycee Carroll (7), Ibaka (6), Jorge Sanz (0).
64 – Valencia Basket (12 +20 +23 +9): Markovic (4), Nando De Colo (7), Rafa Martínez (10), Splitter (19), Sergei Lishchuk (10); Rodrigo San Miguel (5), Pietrus (0), Ogilvy (6), Rihards Kuksiks (3).