Real Madrid prevail in dramatic Copa ACB final (vid)

It was a buzzing atmosphere in the Martin Carpena for the fourth ‘El Clasico’ in the past five years. Barcelona were reigning champions but came into the game as second favourites to a Madrid team that has torn through the ACB on their way to an unbeaten 18-0 record.

With fans of all 8 teams sticking around to watch the final everything was set for another great clash between the two great powers of Spanish basketball. With both teams being universally disliked by the 6 other teams fans the player introductions were drowned out by a cacophony of whistles and jeers. But by the time the final buzzer sounded it was the favourites who pulled through, in a game that rivals the 2012 Euroleague final in terms of excitement.

The game was neck and neck throughout and it was no exception in the first half, with Barca looking to feed their two big men up front, Ante Tomic and Erazem Lorbek, as both dropped in 6 points. Madrid too looked to their big name players early on, with Rudy Fernandez and Nikola Mirotic both hitting from three to go along with a pair of free throw for Mirotic and a Rudy layup where hebeat Juan Carlos Navarro off the dribble. The first quarter ended in bizarre fashion as the shotclock malfunctioned allowing Madrid extra time one their possession, which resulted in the referees consulting after the buzzer to put 6 seconds back on the game clock for a Barca possession. Brad Oleson took the ball and drove the length of the court to make a floater that gave Barca a 17-16 lead.

With Real bringing Sergio Rodriguez to start the second Barca countered with defensive pest Victor Sada, and it was the Sada who had the better start, poking the ball away from Rodriguez and finding Bostjan Nachbar leaking out on the fast break, before the Slovenian slipped a behind the back pass behind Marcus Slaughter to Kostas Papanikolaou for a layup. The teams traded baskets until the television timeout with 3 minutes to go in the game, the score knotted at 31. A Boki corner three from a Huertas feed was quickly matched by a Rudy three from superb ball movement. Then Joey Dorsey’s imperious pick and roll defence forced a Sergio Llull pass out of bounds, and Alex Abrines knocked down a three in the face of Felipe Reyes after a switch to give Barca a four point lead and prompt a Real timeout with 1 minute left. After Nikola Mirotic knocked down a pair of free throws, Juan Carlos Navarro pushed the lead back to four for halftime when his layup kissed off the glass as he drove around a Dorsey screen.

With Madrid’s own defensive pest Dontaye Draper coming on to start the second half Madrid quickly pulled themselves back on level terms, with Sergio Llull converting a three point play in transition to pull them within one, before an Ante Tomic tip in pushed Barca’s lead out to three again. Rudy Fernandez tied the game up the next trip down the floor however, with a corner three. Real started to push ahead in the middle of the third before Marcelinho Huertas started exploiting some awful pick and roll defence by Ioannia Bourousis to make three consecutive floater to tie the game up at 53 when the television timeout occurred. The quarter stayed even in the final minutes with Rodriguez hitting a floater of his own before Erazem Lorbek drove in and finished through a foul from Rudy Fernandez. But before the quarter could end there was a scuffle between Marcus Slaughter and Ante Tomic after a rebound that resulted in both players being called for technical fouls.

With the game in the balance at 60-59 in Real’s favour it all came down to the fourth quarter and it started with a key play against Madrid, with Marcus Slaughter picking up his fourth foul on a Joey Dorsey lob attempt. The game stayed even until mid way through the fourth when Madrid were leading 66-64 after a timeout with 5.50 left after a Sergio Rodriguez layup pushed the lead to four prompting another timeout two minutes later. Then Madrid went on their key run as Felipe Reyes did his best to embellish Real’s reputation as a flopping team by consistently over selling rebounding fouls and any contact on offence. After a Nikola Mirotic corner three things looked they could be over for Barca as they trailed by 7 with a little over two minutes left, but Juan Carlo Navarro stepped up to hit two free throws after a Reyes foul to bring it to five points.

On the next Barca offence Felipe Reyes was finally on the receiving end of a rebounding foul which proved to be his fifth, bringing Ioannis Bourousis into the game. Barca went to Huertas to exploit the Greek centre and he obliged them with yet another floater while the hapless Bourousis floated in no man’s land. With just 23.1 seconds remaining and Barca down two they had to either get a steal or foul as soon as possible, with the ball inbounded to Sergio Rodriguez he floated a pass towards mid court the found only the outstretched arm and humongous palm of Joey Dorsey. As Barca drove down court they needed a two to tie the game, or a three to win it. Brad Oleson came off a Dorsey screen on the right wing, drove hard down the lane and floated a deft left handed layup off the glass while taking a hit from Ioannis Bourousis.

The whistle blows, the ball drops through the net. Oleson has a chance to hit a free throw to put Barca in the lead with 8.8 seconds left. It drops. Choosing not to take a timeout Real inbound the ball to Sergio Rodriguez, who is immediately hounded by Victor Sada. He reaches the Barca half and shapes to drive from right to left down the lane, Sada sticks with him, while Kostas Papanikolaou comes over from the right corner, leaving Sergio Llull to help. Rodriguez seems like he will pull up, making both Sada and Papanikolaou bit on his fake, before firing an almost impossible pass to Llull standing in the right corner. The shot goes up, hits nothing but net. The beserkers go crazy. And Real win the Copa, with Nikola Mirotic deservedly winning MVP.

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