Thursday, 8 October 2009

Utah cruise by Real Madrid

What did the Utah Jazz and Dulux have in common on Thursday night? Answer: They both controlled the paint.
Facing Real Madrid in the second of their two stops on their pre-season tour of Europe, Utah domineered the 30-time ACB champions and cruised to a simple 109-87 victory at the Palacio de Deportes.
Unlike in London, 48 hours earlier, against the Chicago Bulls, there was never going to be last-season dramatics here. Not after a 23-7 second quarter burst that ended any pretence these two teams were on the same planet. 
There was a sniff of an upset when Louis Bullock closed the gap to 33-30. But Real Madrid looked like a team still trying to get to grips with Ettore Messina’s defensive schemes. Short of bigs due to injury, the Spaniards struggled inside, hogging the perimeter for dear life, as Paul Millsap - who hit 18 of his game-high 20 points in the first half - pulverised and bullied under the basket.
"He's played extremely well. He's in great shape. He looks more relaxed than any time I've seen him since he's been with our team," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, "and I think he's been able to take advantage with not only the fact he scored points but his ability to do the little things that help you win."
You live by the J and die by the J. Some of Madrid’s excursions proved fatal, despite the injection of money and ambition from their paymasters at the Bernabeu this summer that will demand a genuine challenge for ACB supremacy.
Yet as Utah surged clear as half-time approached, the possibility that the hosts could repeat their defeat of the Toronto Raptors of two years ago was ruthlessly extinguished.
Even with Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer chilling on the bench, the Jazz tuned in and coasted 56-37 in front at the interval.
At least, for the Madrilenos, the Chinese plate-juggling act that earned the second-biggest cheer of the night at London’s 02 Arena two nights earlier raised a cheer.
That wave of enthusiasm was swiftly squashed with a strong Utah start to the third and a 7-0 burst only accelerated Real’s embarrassment. Messina, sat on his bench, must have been pondering if leaving CSKA Moscow was such a good move as the turnovers mounted up and the gap closed on 30.
Down 89-63 heading into the fourth, all the ACB hopefuls could do was save face and learn the lessons.
The Jazz – shooting better and defending with more poise than on their visit to the UK – could let thoughts turn to the long flight home as the clock ran down and the benches came out to play.
Sloan will still see improvements to make. Messina’s overhaul is very much a work in progress.

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