The two Spanish clubs drew first blood in their respective Euroleague quarter-final match-ups as Barcelona eased past Galatasaray 88-61 in Catalunya, while Real Madrid beat reigning champions Olympiacos 88-71 in the country’s capital.
Galatasaray’s loss was further hampered with an injury to their star Carlos Arroyo, who was taken off just before half-time and never returned. Just before the unfortunate incident, Arroyo posted an impressive 14 points in just 16 minutes on court. The Puerto Rican will undergo an MRI on Thursday, which will determine if he is available for game two on Thursday.
Before Arroyo came off, Galatasaray were more than just holding their own. Leading 21-14 after the first period, they only trailed 35-33 at the half when he came out. Then a 14-0 run from Barca in the third quarter proved too much for the Turkish side to handle as the hosts poured in 55 points in the second half as they took advantage of a tired looking defence.
Bostjan Nachbar led Barcelona with 19 points, with Juan Carlos Navarro adding 12.
“It was very difficult at the start. Galatasaray started really well, in particular Arroyo,” Nachbar said. “In the second half, we started playing better defence, and that improved our offence. But it’s still 1-0. We have to be consistent now.”
Despite coming off, Arroyo’s 14 points paced Galatasaray as they crumbled in the second half.
“We have to be confident in our ability to win the next one,” Arroyo said. “We are a team with the talent and experience necessary to have a successful series. I don’t understand what happened in the second half. We have to understand again what we need to do on the court, which is play defence, perhaps be a bit selfish in certain situations, move the ball and find the open man. We just have to get back to believing in ourselves.”
Shortly afterwards, around 620 km away from Barcelona, Real Madrid defeated reigning champions Olympiacos 88-71 in a rematch of last season’s final in London.
The first half almost resembled the first half in last season’s finale as Real Madrid started strongly and a 17-2 gave the Liga Endesa side a 27-12 lead after one. Olympiacos though hit back to tie the game at 40-40. The hosts though finished the half on an 8-1 run to lead 48-41 at the interval and from there, they never looked back.
A 10-0 burst in the early stages of the third sealed the game for Real Madrid, despite a strong finish by the Greeks, they were never threatening a serious comeback in those latter stages.
Rudy Fernandez led Real Madrid with a game-high 20 points, while Vassilis Spanoulis paced Olympiacos with 18 points.
“I am very happy with this win,” Real Madrid coach Pablo Laso said afterwards. “We worked hard to get it. It was based especially on the very good defence we had in the first quarter. That, along with good shooting percentages, gave us a key lead which we managed well during the game. Olympiacos came back in the second quarter, but we improved in the third quarter and that was decisive. Controlling the boards, good ball circulation and our defence in the second half allowed us to win the game.”
Olympiacos’ Spanoulis added: “We have to recover, take a better care of the ball and improve our shooting percentages. I am sure it will be a long series.”