Real Madrid forced a deciding game five in the semi-finals of the Liga Endesa play-offs, after a 76-66 road win over Caja Laboral.
A perfect inside game from Novica Velickovic was key to Madrid’s success. He led all scorers with 22 points, hitting all five of his 2-point field goal attempts. The impressive Sergio Rodriguez supported with 15 points, all of them beyond the arc, he also dished out five assists.
Whatever Madrid coach Pablo Laso said at the interval worked wonders, as Real were a totally different side from the soft and over-cautious squad in the first half. Buoyed by their improved efforts from downtown, a Velickovic three gave the visitors a 51-50 lead with just over a minute in the third remaining.
Rodriguez then hit from well behind the line on the buzzer to give the Whites a 57-52 third quarter lead, which they kept for the fourth period.
It was the hosts though that made the better opening – strong inside play – notably from Polish international Maciej Lampe gave Caja Laboral a 26-21 first quarter lead. Lampe led the hosts with 20 points.
The fundamentally sound Pablo Prigioni eased his way inside to feed an open Lampe for the simple lay-up to give the Vitoria side a 35-26 advantage mid-way through the second period. Real Madrid coach Pablo Laso began to get worried with his team’s shape.
The half-time talk though was a major boost as Madrid silenced the home fans to tie the series at two games each and take the deciding game back to the capital on Saturday.
Milko Bjelica scored 14 points for Caja Laboral who might be without top scorer Lampe for game five. He came down badly on his ankle after he finished a transition play in the fourth and looked in some pain afterwards.