When it comes to form, Real Madrid are better than FC Barcelona at this point in the season. The men managed by Xavi Pascual were defeated 98-84 in Madrid by Los Blancos, who have won 25 consecutive matches and are undefeated. The Catalans, who were led by Navarro (17 points), were unable to stop Rudy Fernández’s good performance in the first half and Nikola Mirotic and Sergio Rodríguez’s dominant showing in the second.
Madrid, at home, always play at a high pace. The home team tried to outrun Barça at the beginning of the match but they were unsuccessful (7-9) thanks to Barça’s controlled and efficient approach. But the opening minutes were an illusion because when Rudy stepped onto the court, everything changed. A 10-2 run disorganised Barça and Rudy, who had scored 9 points, made it 17-11. The Catalans stopped the onslaught thanks to Lorbek, but Madrid were still on top at the end of the first quarter (23-18).
There was more to come. Sergio Rodríguez, the most in form point guard in Europe, led his team to an even greater advantage. First it was Carroll who scored a three pointer, and he was followed by two three pointers from Felipe Reyes, who isn’t known for his three-point shot ability. In the blink on an eye Barça were behind by 13 points (38-25) and Pascual was forced to call timeout. Barça tried to hang on, and in a sense they did, seeing that they went to the break with a 12-point deficit (48-36).
At the start of the second half, the Blaugrana came out swinging. They came within five points after Álex Abrines scored two free throws (53-48). But Rudy, who was helped by Mirotic, led Madrid to another devastating run (18-5). Barça were up against the ropes with 71 to 53 on the scoreboard. Pascual’s men continued to fight on and two three pointers from Papanikolaou brought the team within 12 points of their rivals (71-59). Finally, the quarter ended with 76 to 65 on the scoreboard after Navarro hit a three pointer.
Barça edged to within seven points of Madrid’s lead in the final quarter, but the home team didn’t falter. Mirotic scored a three pointer and a counterattack led by Llull reestablished Madrid’s 12-point lead. The final 98 to 84 shows, at this point in the season, that Los Blancos are at a higher level than Barça. But the season is far from over.