The keys to a miracle team

Last season already saw a resurgence at Real Madrid. The team had fallen from February to April, with severe defeats and an alarming loss of bellows when the most complicated part of the season arrived, and Pablo Laso’s team at that time reemerged like a phoenix to reach the Euroleague and League finals, with victories in both ways against Barça, and win one of the two titles. The European resisted: Ataman’s Efes was crowned in Belgrade. The summer took the Basque coach ahead and his second so far, Chus Mateo, took over, not without a doubt. Sticking with a way of working seems easy to say, not so easy to doand the results are what command.

This Euroleague has become a lifeline for the now head coach of the club. This is how he did it after the fight of the second meeting of playoff against Partizan. To death with the players. His defense tooth and nail despite the embarrassing image at that time was worth it. It was a mental issue. He ushered his boys back into the fold, patting them on the back to show their support, and he knew it was reciprocated. This is how it happened later, more due to character and mentality than due to a display of high basketball: two games were held at the feared Stark Arena in Belgrade (Serbia) and a historic 3-2 was achieved in the continental competition. Now they are another meeting. And Barça, confident of their good work in recent weeks, did not think that Madrid would take the measure again.

The defeat that they have inflicted on Barcelona this weekend in Kaunas, in another Final Four in which their arms multiply and extend over the bodies of the opponents as if they were an octopus, is one of those that explains well in what has this team become. Like football, taking as an example his performance in the Champions League in which he finished at the top, there are concepts that continue to fail technically but have become a rock mentally. Let’s see who breaks this colossus now. Olympiacos is the last obstacle that remains to be overcome to win its eleventh Euroleaguean achievement that would prove the survival of Madrid at the top.

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This team was built around very good names in the summer of 2022 and it is now, after the talk about this or that during the regular phases of the Euroleague (3rd) and League (2nd), when that squad is worth it. With problems, yes, because Poirier and Deck have fallen due to injury and Yabusele is only in ACB because of his suspension. Some of the keys that have made them get here were also seen in this 66-78 win in the Clásico against Barcelona:

Tavares. It is in the first break of the African pivot, between the first and second quarters, when Madrid’s defense opens up without his reference and he begins to have a hard time. The triples fell easy. The pivot stressed the rebounds well at the end of the game, because the Catalans do a lot of damage on second chances, and there he was to catch them. If we only reduce it to this rival we have several points to comment in relation to Walter Samuel, his full name; Sanli, on the one hand, takes him out of the zone and produces a barbaric effect the day he hits with the triples, but he also suffers to defend him because he does not enjoy physicality or confidence; Vesely, for his part, is one of the great centers in Europe that is best given to Tavares, since his profile is the same but already one step below as he is weakened by age and injuries. The balls that Tavares receives in attack in the post or under the hoop are synonymous with something positive: either a basket, or a foul received, or a ball taken if the two against one falls, etc. Life is easier if he is present. Even limping is effective, so in top form he is a Midas to his teammates.

· Defending. It is the suffocation that they produce in the opponents that leads to getting the difficult games forward. The pressure on the ball from experts like Hanga or Rudy, the outside combinations for which Williams-Goss is entrusted if there is a dangerous outside on the other side, resources within reach of men like Hezonja or Abalde.. This is how a team is fed back in which there are weak links in that facet (Llull, ‘El Chacho’, Musa) who can be hidden.

· Settings. If anyone clearly remembers last year’s European final, they will come to mind the cataract of criticism of Laso for the last play of that evening. An error that, among other things, cost the trophy. With Mateo, that level of judgment has been acquired since the Endesa Super Cup, either by comparison with his predecessor or for other reasons, and the coach, experienced in the elite, has been adjusting a strong squad that needed to be known. The rescue of Williams-Goss despite the rumors was already important last year and this is also important, but it is not the only one. In these last two Euroleague games, a strategy that could be repeated with Sasha Vezenkov, the coach has used the very young Eli John Ndiaye to pair him up with Tavares and be the one to do his dirty work. Mirotic has probably had the worst game of his career, according to Nikola’s own words. In this Clásico on Friday in May, the swerve in the second quarter also drew attention, proposing an area to lower the rival’s percentages, which did not bear fruit at first but ended up confusing.

· ‘El Chacho’. From within the club, Sergio Rodríguez’s harangue to lift the 0-2 against Partizán stands out. But to stay there would be an understatement. The player from Tenerife has given, and by far, samples of his quality on court to change dynamics and direct matches. After being expressly requested by Laso and spending moments of incomprehension with Mateo, the 36-year-old point guard is a shock. 9 points in 1:25 and two subsequent assists for Tavares definitively deactivated Barça’s responses, which failed to defend him.

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