Real Madrid and Bayern Munich did something truly wonderful on Thursday night.
The two teams made us love the Euroleague more than we ever thought possible … Again.
Laboral Kutxa and Anadolu Efes were a close second but the clash between the Euroleague champions and the German powerhouse was so compelling that if you blinked, you missed something exceptional.
And at the end of forty breathtaking minutes of basketball, the game finally reached its conclusion with Jaycee Carroll hitting a three-pointer with three seconds remaining to snatch a win for Real Madrid against a Bayern side who had seemed certain to pick up a monumental, yet deserved victory.
“The last shot was great,” an enthusiastic Carroll said afterwards.
“It is fun to get a little excitement like that into our game. [It was] a great extra pass by Chacho [Rodriguez] to find me wide open, really, for a shot.
“In the end, the whole team fought hard and a lot of our players did very good things in the second half to overcome the deficit we had and win the game. On the final play, we had some extra passes and the ball fell in my hands, and I hit the shot. The most important thing is that we won the game. We knew that Bayern was going to be a tough, difficult team to beat. They are playing very well and kept its chances open until the final seconds.”
And those chances were nearly taken. A 10-0 run, inspired by an energetic Deon Thompson put the German side 76-67 to the good towards the end of the third and despite the reigning Euroleague champions finishing the penultimate period solidly, the gap was still eight points, as the fourth and deciding quarter loomed.
Los Blancos then demonstrated their championship credentials, switched gears and all of a sudden … a new Real Madrid was on the court.
Pace, aggression, passion, intelligence, the Spanish side had it in abundance.
Bayern were hanging on, but gradually became more and more fatigued, and eventually, they relinquished their 10-point advantage with Gustavo Ayon completing the comeback with a block at one end and a score at the other to give his side a 98-96 lead.
Alex Renfoe restored Bayern’s lead with 20 ticks still left. Then Carroll basked in the Euroleague spotlight to deliver an unforgettable moment this early in the new season.
“Our strong points were the final two minutes, in which we were really aggressive,” Real Madrid’s Rudy Fernandez said.
“We played very good defence in the first quarter and this is when we got an 11-12 point lead. After that, maybe because we were tired or for things beyond our control, they returned to the game, hit three-point shots in transition and played really well. We trailed most of the way after that until those final two minutes, in which we improved and had a final shot to win the game.”
And that final shot no doubt hurt Bayern, it must have. But make no mistake, they will be back. This game will be out of their minds. But at the same time, December 11 will be pencilled in for the rematch at the Audi Dome.
“We played unbelievably well, but it is unbelievable that we lost the game,” explained Bayern’s KC Rivers, who was part of Real Madrid’s championship-winning side last season.
“It was a very balanced game and it is hard to say how the team feels after this loss. We must learn to play forty minutes at our best level, the one we showed in our best moments, and try to do even better than that.”
And if Bayern do manage to do better than that, maybe we will have more Euroleague memories to talk about for years to come.