A battle of old warriors in Group C went appropriately enough to the home team on Thursday as Real Madrid turned back Olympiacos with a defensive-minded 73-66 victory which the home team led throughout. The win breathed life into Madrid right before the break for national team play, boosting its record to 3-3 to join a three-way tie for third place with Adecco Asvel and Virtus Bologna. Olympiacos fell into a 2-4 tie with Idea Slask and Partizan Mobtel at the bottom of the group. Madrid found a new scoring option in forward Alex Mumbru, who led the winners with 21 points, 14 of which came in a first quarter that ended with the hosts ahead 16 points. Madrid would never let the Reds get back. Derrick Alston added 14 points, Lucio Angulo 13 and Alberto Herreros 12 for the winners. For Olympiacos, Christos Harissis and Ignacio De Miguel nailed 13 each and Nenad Markovic added 11.
The spectacular beginning by Mumbru allowed the hosts to face what was to be a very demanding night for scorers. The young forward ignored all the pressure and provided his team with a dose of tranquility in the right moment. He stared down all the ghosts hovering around Real Madrid and blasted the Reds while there still were fans looking for their seats. He scored 9 points in the first 5 minutes, the last coming on a three-pointer that put Madrid up 11-6. Soon, he was hitting another from downtown, which was copied after an Olympiacos timeout by Angulo. The Madrid lead was at 19-8, but still going up. Only a three-pointer by Harissis interrupted a 10-3 run by Madrid, including two more baskets by Angulo, to end the first quarter with a 29-13 lead in the hands of the locals.
The Madrid blastoff did not stop there. Their teammates joined Mumbru and Angulo in the second quarter, with Dragan Tarlac and Alston raking points inside. When Herreros lifted up for his first basket, from downtown, the lead hit 40-18. Only Harissis could do anything for the Reds. His 5 consecutive points now ignited a group effort on the defensive end, and when Markovic made his first shot, Olympiacos had cut the lead to 40-27 at the half.
After the break, points came few and far between, but Harissis continued his team's streak. It took awhile, but the run Olympiacos began before the half reached 0-18 and the Reds were right on Madrid's tail at 40-36. Madrid was teetering, and the loss of such a big lead might have proved fatal, but Alston avoided that by converting a couple important possessions and pushing the locals to a double-digit lead again, 53-42, after 30 minutes. Relying on its defense as it had in the game's start, Madrid was able to hold onto the lead in the final quarter without letting the Reds get close enough to threaten.
Thursday, November 14, 2002