Not Langford’s day: UNICS expectedly loses in Madrid
Kazan players lost against Real in the capital of Spain in the next match of basketball Euroleague 89-75
Having been cornered, Pashutin and his team flew to Madrid – they could not lose. This is why they could do their best to repeat the Istanbul miracle. Madrid, in turn, was probably waiting for the opposition of two sharpshooters –Sergio Llull and Keith Langford – more than the very match. They managed to get rid of the American successfully. But Kazan could not oppose the high class of Real. Realnoe Vremya goes into details.
Madrid inculcated tremor
Real inculcated real, probably noticeable tremor a couple of days before the flight of UNICS to Madrid. We can only imagine what feelings Evgeny Pashutin and his players had when they examined their opponent's last games. The royal club gathered such a pace that now CSKA doesn't seem to be a superclub.
It is a perfect Euroleague in combination with the great result in the Spanish Championship where nobody can defeat Madrid players (Real walloped Tenerife, Panathinaikos, Gran Canaria in a week and ended its brave trip with the most important thing what a fan of the Whites can get – a humiliating debacle of Catalan Barcelona). To see how Real looked like before the match against UNICS, which is going through a crisis, we can look at the score at the arena in Barcelona at the end of Real's last match in Euroleague – 63-102. If Barça was defeated with the humiliating -39 in a match that was very important for the team, we can compare Madrid players with either a hero of a Soviet cartoon Popeye the Sailor who swallows a spinach or a furious monster from some anime.
Haughty Madrid players were afraid of Langford
In Madrid, the Kazan team was formally treated with respect. But the haughtiness was noticeable. Everything indicates that Real was very interested in the arrival of the best Euroleague forward Keith Langford, not the rest of the team and its coach all together. Even the preview of the match posted on the official page was headlined 'The Whites go in search of their fifth straight win against opponents who boast the EuroLeague's top scorer in Langford'.
Yes, it is pleasant, of course, that our American star is known everywhere. But the whole text of the preview limited to Langford, Real's power and its leader Sergio Llull. But at the end of the text, its authors dedicated several lines to other basketball players from Kazan.
'The Russians are sitting joint-bottom of the standings, but boast the competition's top scorer and the most valuable player in Keith Langford,' was written on 'realmadrid.com. 'Llull and Langford, or the competition's third top scorer (20.1 points) against the leading scorer (24.3) prepare to lock horns in this one. The American is Unics Kazan's most dangerous player, but he's not the only threat. The Russians' roster also contain experienced men like former ACB players, Colom, Banic and Latavious Williams and Parakhouski — who at 2.11m is the main man on the inside (10.9 points) — Kaimakoglou and Johnson. The guests are a balanced unit and are very strong on defensive rebounds.'
No backing space
One can only guess what luggage Kazan players had when they arrived in the capital of Spain. Six defeats in Euroleague, while the Whites have just smashed Barcelona. They had no backing space, nothing to lose. Everyone in the team understood that the only way to win was to team up and perform their best game in the career.
'We are in a state when we have been cornered. We have nothing to be afraid of,' told UNICS forward Pavel Antipov the official page of the club. 'We need to win. I think the only way to win is to impose our game, a tough game. Real will play at home, and they will be self-confident after such a victory. Teamwork in defence is the only way to win.'
Plan A did not work out
At first it seemed that everything worked out. Gustavo Ayón got the ball over and over, but Panin and Kaimakoglou did let him perform a successful shot. It allowed to hold the draw. UNICS did not let Real go ahead and had an excellence of several points at times. As soon as Ayón or Llul possessed the ball, two 'big' Madrid players appeared under the backboard of UNICS. The tactics worked out every other time, but its yielded fruits. Real scored many points in overtime. The Greens started to make individual mistakes by the middle of the quarter.
Kazan players reduced the pace of their attacks, of course. But they reduced their own speed. Meanwhile, Madrid players did not care, ran fast and reached the basket. In general, the Plan A did not work out, 17-10 at the beginning. The game turned into street basketball when the host team started to gambol with one-touch assists. Johnson and Colom's attempts to make long-range shots were not successful. As a result, there was a margin of 11 points. Orlando Johnson's playing time on the court was a failure. His assists were out of place and rare shots extremely unprepared. All in all, the American was sent to warm the bench for a long time and did not appear on the court in the first half of the match. His compatriot Langford was not noticeable as well. Mistakes and turned off scoring touch insinuated that Madrid players finally found an antidote to the player they were afraid of.
Madrid tuning fork
Pashutin whispered something to the players during the short break when Spanish cheerleaders' lively danced. Nevertheless, they managed to destroy Real's teamwork. But the host team helped them. Not having met an especial opposition, they seemed to start playing half-heartedly. At the beginning of the quarter, the score was 28-20; it did not change during 3 minutes. Having stood like a monument under the basket, Parakhouski snatched absolutely everything, and Madrid's scoring ability from a long and middle distance went wrong.
Kazan players lacked only their own accuracy in attack for ideal combination when the rival failed to shoot, and the steal was successful. All of a sudden, Antipov scored the first three-pointer for UNICS. Such a debut was not expected at all. In answer to it, Real turned its anger on and returned its +9.
In general, Pavel Antipov lost everything in his small opposition against Rudi Fernández. His speed was slower. This is why the host team got the ball more often.
And here the tuning fork swung to the East, and Real's fast combinations stopped being successful. As soon as the Whites got the ball, Williams or Kaimakoglou stole it. Madrid players could assist without hurry or shoot with preparation. At one point, the margin shrank to one point when the Greek referee granted a foul on his compatriot Kostas Kaimakoglou in attack. And he did it. In the last minute, Real managed to score more. In the last second, Sergio Llull decided to shoot (!)… and succeeded! But he did it after the whistle, fortunately. Still, it was a masterpiece.
Class took over
The plans with the destroyed pace of the opponent and strict game in defence that was performed so that Real was not successful even helped UNICS to take the lead at the beginning of the second half of the game – 43-42. It was the last moment when Kazan could be happy. Real started to shoot three-pointers, which began to hit the target easily. Reyes constantly helped with his 'dirty' picks, and Rudi Fernández got an opportunity to shoot freely.
Pavel Antipov performed the second three-pointer for UNICS. When Keith refused to make long shots for some reason, and Kaimakoglou could not perform them well, while the Russian forward succeeded, the only question that came to my mind was: 'What's going on here?' Was it the coach's idea? I don't think so. The -7 before the final quarter became a consequence of the lost rebounds. 20 rebounds against Real's 29 were seen on the scoreboard – 62-55.
Jaycee Carroll started to play well. He scored 11 points in a row. At one moment Madrid players' excellence reached 16 points. Parakhouski worked well in answer to it. At first he reached the basket and shot the ball through the hoop, then had several rebounds. So the margin reduced to -7. But Real's three-pointers took over. Unfortunately, almost all the shots were successful. Rudi, Llull and Caroll – everyone practised their accuracy. Almost always they shot without any opposition shown by Kazan players. This is why 84-73 when 2 minutes left till the end beautifully meant the match could not be saved.
It was an expectedly lost match where UNICS was even with Madrid 'monsters' at times. However, no miracle happened.
Real Madrid (Spain) — UNICS (Russia) 89-75 (25-17, 15-20, 22-18, 27-20)
Real Madrid: Felipe Reyes (16), Sergio Llul; (14+7 assists), Mačiulis (9), Ayón (6), Dončić (0) — starting line-up; Rudi Fernández (12+7 rebounds), Carroll (11), Hunter (10), Randolf (8+4 blocked shots), Nocioni (3), Draper (0).
UNICS: Parakhouski (19+7 rebounds), Langford (13+7 rebounds), Colom (10), Kaimakoglou (5), Panin (0) — starting line-up; Banić (12), Antipov (6), Johnson (5), Williams (5).