Real Madrid produced an incredible fourth-quarter comeback to get back into their EuroLeague playoffs series against Anadolu Efes. Efes who had dominated both Game One and Two, were on course to dominate the third and take the sweep but Real’s Sergio Llull was the hero of the night as Real earned another chance to progress into the Final Four.
Llull, who finished the night with 20 points and seven assists, lifted his team after three quarters which looked like the previous two games. However, he showed full belief in his side.
“I’m not surprised (we won). I believe in this team and if you play with this kit, you have to fight,” Llull said after the game.
Asked about the comeback, Llull attributed it to the side scoring many threes – 11 of 23 – and controlling the rhythm of the game, particularly in the second half.
Real coach Pablo Lasso, who had been critical of his side’s defense in the first half, congratulated his players while insisting that it’s not in the bag just yet.
“My players kept believing. Also, (in the second half) we didn’t turn the ball over, except for maybe three times,” Lasso explained.
“We’re still behind in the series but I want to congratulate the players today.”
It was Real who started on the right foot, going on a 5-0 run in the first four minutes, with Efes unable to get anything in the basket. It looked like the former were making a statement until Efes gained momentum to tie the game at the end of the first quarter.
It was back to the status quo in the second quarter as Efes gained a ten-point lead before the half.
Speaking during halftime, Efes’ Rodrigue Beaubois, who finished the game with 18 points and four rebounds, was not entirely convinced with the side’s first-half performance, insisting that “we stayed focused but we need to be a bit better”.
Efes coach Ergin Ataman highlighted the side’s main problem as being the scoreless Shane Larkin, who was kept quiet throughout and ended the encounter with only six points.
“The main problem in the first half was Larkin being with zero points,” Ataman said.
By then, Lasso’s men looked clumsy and the Real coach insisted that the important thing for them was not turning the ball over.
The third quarter was a Vasilje Micic (29Pts/6 Ast) show, however. Real went down 13 as they continued to struggle defensively.
Larkin finally grabbed his first field goal in the fourth as Llull slowly stole the stoplight and a 14-2 run by Real brought the game to a 1-point margin before Efes appeared to have conceded to end the game 80-76.
The two sides face eachother again on Thursday in Game Four.