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Madrid Triumph in El Clasico

Marty Pocius was the hero for Real Madrid as his driving layup with 14 seconds finally held off Barcelona’s comeback and secured the win. Madrid triumphed 78-74, in a tense and dramatic game at Palacio de los Deportes.

Madrid nearly threw away a 14 point second half lead gained off the back of a barrage of three point shooting by Jaycee Carroll. Barcelona pulled level midway through the 4th quarter and had several opportunities to take the lead but could not complete the comeback.

The game began with both sides going inside, suffering from shaky perimeter shooting. Without Juan Carlos Navarro and with Erazem Lorbek clearly not 100%, Barcelona knew they would need bigger contributions from elsewhere, and Pete Mickael’s two early fouls brought Xavi Rabaseda onto the floor much earlier than intended.

‘Boom Boom’ Carroll

Madrid pulled away in the second quarter, outscoring their opponents on a 20-6 run around three triples from Jaycee Carroll and one from Pocius on the halftime buzzer. Carroll’s shooting broke the game open, finally bringing the same rapidfire offensive boost from Euroleague play into a domestic game.

Madrid had not yet acheived anything like the offensive fluidity of which they are capable. Sergio Llull was in out-of-control mode, but behind Carroll’s unparalleled catch and shoot game they had opened up a double digit lead by halftime, going in ahead by 48-36. Defensively, when Huertas came off a screen, Madrid generally switched, and both Tomic and Mirotic had managed to keep pace with the Brazilian. With Lorbek hampered by injury and Mickael in foul trouble, Barcelona’s offense stuttered, and only a few Eidson jumpers and N’Dong’s putbacks had kept them afloat.

Barcelona Comeback

The third quarter was sloppy in the extreme, with neither side playing coherent basketball. Madrid’s offense deteriorated into a one-pass, even no-pass mess. Mickael picked up his third foul early on, but Xavi Pascual kept him in the game, and it proved to be a good decision. Barcelona were not running anything like attractive offensive sets either, but Mickael got some tough isolation looks to drop, and slowly Barcelona crept back into the game.

Madrid had gone into their shells, mindful that if they could not beat a Navarro-less Barcelona, after leading by 14 points in the second half, they may not ever come out of El Clasico smiling. Huertas was doing his best Navarro impression, draining his teammate’s trademark floater, attacking off the pick and roll with great success.

The momentum was with the visitors. A 6-0 run was broken by a smooth spin move in the post by Tomic but Huertas dished out on the pick and roll straight after. Llull drained a three to give Madrid an eight point lead but a CJ Wallace jumper and a putback dunk on the buzzer by Vazquez closed out a 22-14 period for Barcelona with the score at 62-58.

Marcelinho Takes Over, but Pocius Finishes

Marcelinho took over in the fourth quarter, as Madrid faded even further. A Lorbek short jumper, as Barcelona finally went into the post, tied the game at 68 with just over 4 minutes left. Barcelona couldn’t quite place the dagger though, as Tomic and Pocius combined to wrest control of the game – and perhaps their season – back from the Catalans. Four points from Tomic underneath the rim, either side of a Huertas runner, steeled Madrid for the fight, and when Pocius isolated on Mickael, put his head down and powered through him to the rim to finish, all the American could do was foul. Pocius missed the bonus but grabbed his own rebound and despite a Lorbek jumper and a late inbounds scare, Madrid finished triumphant.

It was a fitting end to the game: an isolation play followed by avoidable mistakes, but no less dramatic. That won’t matter in Madrid, or perhaps the rest of Spain. The result leaves five teams tied at the top of the ACB at 11-3 and sets up an intriguing second half of the domestic season. Tomic and Carroll both had 16 points for Madrid, Suarez 11, Pocius 10. Pete Mickael led Barcelona on 14 points, Huertas 13, N’Dong 12 were their only other scorers in double figures.

Box Score

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