Real Madrid reaches Euroleague final after thriller against arch-rival Barcelona
The most-crowned team in EuroLeague history and a would-be repeat champion will vie for the trophy on Saturday after the first El Clasico ever in Belgrade featured a monster comeback win. Real rallies to stop Barca, 83-86.
Real Madrid rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to outduel arch-rival FC Barcelona the rest of the way and win 83-86 in the second semifinal at the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in Belgrade, Serbia. Real’s French connection drove the comeback, with Fabien Causeur and Geurschon Yabusele drilling 18 points each and Vincent Poirier coming up with big plays down the stretch. Sergio Llull added 15 points for the winners, including a key layup with 22 seconds left. For Barcelona, season MVP Nikola Mirotic had a monster double-double of 26 points and 12 rebounds. Nicolas Laprovittola added 17 points and Brandon Davies 15 for Barcelona, which got nine assists from Nick Calathes.
Three-pointers coming from the French duo of Fabien Causeur and Guerschon Yabusele got Real going, 2-8, early in the first quarter. Nicolas Laprovittola and Nikola Mirotic answered soon for Barca to keep Los Blancos in sight, 6-8, as the game heated up offensively on both ends. Sergio Llull came off the Real bench to join the scoring and fed Yabusele for a dunk on the way to an 8-14 edge. Yabusele already had 10 points. Barcelona adjusted better on defense and held Real scoreless for 3 minutes, good enough to make up the disadvantage and go ahead 15-14 on a three-pointer from Mirotic. Rokas Jokubaitis extended Barcelona’s lead to 19-16, but Llull fed Walter Taveres for a monster alley-oop slam and added a free throw later that closed the first period 19-19.
Real stepped up when the game resumed, building up a 20-25 edge behind a three-point play by Gabriel Deck and a three-pointer by Rudy Fernandez in less than 50 seconds. Barcelona tried to stop it with a timeout but found no field goals except a single three-pointer from Abrines in the first 4 minutes, allowing Real Madrid to retain a 22-27 margin. Free throws by Jokubaitis seemed to wake up Barcelona, which used Brandon Davies inside and Laprovittola outside to complete a 9-2 run and get the lead back, 31-29. Mirotic joined Laprovittola on offense, as they combined for 12 points that boosted Barcelona to a double-digit lead, 43-33, with less than a minute to go in the second quarter. Yabusele ended the offensive drought of Real with a free throw, but it proved too little to prevent Barcelona from reaching halftime comfortably settled into a 45-34 lead.
Barcelona amassed a 13-point lead soon after the intermission, thanks to Sertan Sanli. Real Madrid didn’t surrender, though, as Alberto Abalde took over with seven quick points that got his team back into the game at 49-43. Calathes and Mirotic showed up then to calm down Barcelona. The former got his first bucket of the night, and the latter came up with a triple that restored a double-digit margin, 54-43, after 25 minutes. Los Blancos reacted thanks to Causeur, who turned on the lights again for Real with 5 points in a row. Tavares continued the rally and made it 54-50, then Yabusele followed with a triple, Causeur added two free throws, and Llull it a go-ahead triple at 56-58. Barcelona remained cold and could not score for the next 2 minutes, which Real exploited to enter the last stanza leading 56-60 after Causeur stole and finished a fastbreak layup.
Llull started the fourth quarter with free throws and soon added four more points in a row to boost the difference to 61-68. Mirotic’s next three-pointer restored Barcelona’s offensive momentum, but Poirier punished the rim with a two-handed slam, and Yabusele went deep to give Real a 66-73 margin with less than 5 minutes remaining. Laprovittola came up big again for Barcelona, with back-to-back triples that Mirotic followed with a bucket that forged a 75-75 tie with 2:43 to play. The momentum switched again when Causeur struck from deep, then stole and finished, forcing a Barcelona timeout at 75-80. Calathes hit a floater, and Davies thanked Mirotic for a great assist, restoring a one-possession contest at 79-80. Poirier prevented Laprovittola from completing the comeback with a huge block. Llull took advantage of Real’s offensive rebounding force to bank a shot that put Barcelona on the ropes, 79-82, with 21 seconds remaining. Abrines and Exum brought Barcelona within 83-84 with 5 seconds left to go, Llull hit only 1 of 2 free throws, but Yabusele grabbed an offensive board which he turned into the final point when Mirotic’s half-court game-tying attempt fell short.