In a surprising first match day of the Liga Endesa, where Barcelona Regal and Caja Laboral lost to Blancos de Rueda and CAI Zaragoza respectively, Real Madrid showed against another the competition’s big names, Unicaja Malaga, which team is best form and who are the favourites for the Spanish basketball championship. The hard-fought victory against the much changed team from Malaga was built upon a great second half defensive performance in which they conceded 25 points and Draper making the difference in the decisive moments. The Whites extend their unbeaten run so far this season and continue the tradition of Real Madrid victories against Unicaja on the opening day.
The festive atmosphere in the pre-match build-up, where the Super Cup champions showed off the trophy to the approximately eight thousand fans at the Palacio de los Deportes, continued on court with a very even start. The Whites began thanks to the skills of Rudy and Mirotic, who put their team five up in the 5th (12-7). Unicaja, led by Zoric found support on the outside from Urtasun and Simon, turned around the home teams lead with a 9-0 scoring streak in the following two minutes (12-16, min. 7). A Reyes three-pointer at the buzzer Reyes broke the tie in the first quarter (24-21, min. 10).
The visitors were very organised at the back and surprised Real Madrid with an alternating zone defence to which they could not find solutions for their static game. Quite the contrary; the team from Malaga made a meteoric start in this quarter. Two three-pointers from Gist and Calloway gave Unicaja their highest lead (26-31, min. 13). Laso decided on Draper and Slaughter to change the style of the game in which home team had started. They had the desired effect. The point guard opened the opposing defence and the centre with his blend of mobility and physical strength, began to upset Unicaja’s zone defence and neutralising the green’s rebound superiority. From the moment that they both came on Real Madrid recovered their identity and played at a higher pace. Points from Llull and Mirotic added the rest that took Laso’s team to the break three in front (42-39, min. 20).
The Whites’ defence improved considerably. They closed down the rebound, with some great work from Suárez assisting Mirotic and Slaughter and forcing Unicaja to play far away from the basket from where they were not as successful. They were pressured into lots of turnovers to their opponents. That translated into three scoreless minutes for Repesa’s team. Real Madrid took encouragement. Rudy Fernandez who was omnipresent in both attack and defence took control of a 15-4 scoring streak that culminated in a Sergio Rodriguez three-pointer to go 14 points in front in the 29th (57-43).
Unicaja were on the ropes but was able to react. Inexplicably Real Madrid dropped their guard and it led to a comeback for the visitors, who in the next four minutes, with the help of Calloway and his three-pointers brought the game closer and got back to within one point (58-57, min. 32). However, the home team managed to recover in time. Much of that was due to the duo of Sergio Rodríguez -Draper. The two guards ended the opposition’s comeback hopes. Firstly the two three-pointers triples (nine points in the fourth quarter) and another from Sergio Rodríguez finished of Unicaja and gave Real Madrid a deserved win in their opening game (79-64, min. 40).