BallinEurope sends out congratulations this morning to Real Madrid, which closed out a most successful season by taking the decisive game five of the Liga Endesa championship series, 79-71, in yet another “El Clasico”-level thriller. The title represents Los Blancos’ first ACB championship since 2006-07; though title is Real’s sole trophy this season, the win plus a Euroleague runner-up bid has to add up to the club’s finest run since Juan Antonio Corbalán was running point in the early to mid-1980s.
Felipe Reyes was named MVP of the Liga Endesa finals; Reyes turned in yet another efficient performance in game five, contributing 14 points and drawing a whopping seven personal fouls in under 21 minutes of playing time.
Reyes’ show (not to mention the actual win) overshadowed an incredible individual game from Sarunas Jasikevicius, as the old guy played like he’d tapped into his personal 2005. After going just 191 seconds in Madrid’s game four loss, Jasikevicius constantly got/created easy open looks in his under-19 minutes for a huge 23 points on 6-of-9 overall shooting and 8-of-8 from the line.
Unfortunately for the Blaugrana, aside from Joe Ingles’ excellent night, Barcelona shooters could managed just 7-of-33 success overall, including an 0-of-11 mark beyond the arc. (On the other hand, Saras and Ingles did make for one heckuva highlight clip…)
Eerily similar to that championship series across the Atlantic, game five played out as a series of streaks. (And like game six of the Heat-Spurs series, exhausting.) Real Madrid got off to a 10-0 start, which progressively became a 20-10 mark before Jasikevicius, “Una aspirina contra el mareo” as the ACB official writeup would have it – so call him the Human Dramamine, entered for Barca. Six points and one assist later, it was 20-18.
After some second-quarter back-and-forth which saw Barcelona get its first lead at 32-31, this was chased by … another 10-point Madrid run to close out the half! One in which four different players – Mirza Begic, Nikola Mirotic, Tremmell Darden, Dontaye Draper – scored at will! (Incidentally, if anyone has video of this sequence, link it! Post it! Some real clinical, must-see basketball in this few minutes.)
Rudy Fernandez fueled Real to start the third quarter with a pair of nifty steals while his side extended the lead to a nightmarish 50-31.
And then Saras.
Jasikevicius pulled Barcelona up from its nadir with a swaggering eight points on a quick pair of threes and a layup, plus some nifty play with Ingles to key a 17-5 run for the visitors and a 55-48 gap – but the Blaugrana wouldn’t get any closer until the final minute thanks to clutch play from Reyes. With the scoreboard reading 76-71. Marcus Slaughter’s steal on Barca’s final inbounds pass sealed the deal.
Kudos to Real Madrid, then, and one final thought. In answering a question from Lithuanian media back in May about his retirement from the game, Jasikevicius explained that “basketball isn’t a job – it’s a dream.” The 37-year-old sure played like it last night and the result was one dream of a game.
Until next season, Saras, Liga Endesa…