Old Rivals Entertain

For those of you with access to ESPN360 (soon to be ESPN3), you understand the breadth and width of the sporting events that come straight to your computer. Tonight was no expectation. I found a gem; a playoff match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

Yet this match didn’t include a checkered ball but an orangish sphere of bouncing bliss. So instead of Messi vs Ronaldo, or Ibrahimovic vs Kaka; I got Ricky Rubio vs Marko Jarić (both of Timberwolves fame) and Juan Carlos Navarro vs Jorge Garbajosa.

There was noted electricity and a sense of anticipation in the Madrid crowd, as they were down 2-1 in the best of 5 series. This game’s importance was big enough that Real Madrid’s soccer captain and goalie, Iker Cassillas, was looking on from courtside. The TV commentator put it best in his Spanish accented English (think Six Fingered Man from Princess Bride) “The pace is so high, its almost impossible to describe everything on the court.”

If you are able to watch this, I recommend it. If you do not get ESPN360, you can always head to the nearest college campus (its free at all colleges), find a lounge, open up your laptop and watch this game.

Observations…

Ricky Rubio

It seemed Rubio could get to the basket whenever he wanted. However, so could the guy he was guarding. A guy with four “Ls” out of five, Llull. So T-wolves fans, if Rubio ever comes be ready for a Steve Nash 2.0 type guy. All offense, little defense. He’ll fit right in with the team that gives up the most points in the league already.

Yet, it was tough to see any brilliance as his coach seemed to have him in a traditional walk it up, pass the rock type roll. But he had moments, enough to know that the draft pick wasn’t completely thrown away. His passing skills are of quality, and was 8 for 8 from the line (more proof he got to the basket) in the first half alone.

Broadcast

Euro League matches tend to have mixed video quality at best, but this feed was the best I’ve had. It was clear. There were no commercials. This meant all of the timeouts were filmed. The production crew made a great call putting cameras in the huddle. It was fascinating to see the Real Madrid coach switch between Spanish and English at seemingly random times throughout timeouts, especially when translators were available for both teams. Perhaps a little Ozzie Guillen like.

The announcer gets an A, he always does. His accented English, persistence, accuracy, and excitable moments just lift your spirits in unintentional comedy. Really, it is just refreshing that no off the court concerns were brought up during the match. This is a welcomed contrast from American commentators who always want to add to the match by bringing up every rumor that may exist and beat it to death.

Game Play

These were clearly two of the better teams in the Euro League. There were at least four NBA draft picks (listed in the first paragraph), four Americans that more than held their own.

The game had a good pace, good movement in the half court (a lot of high low post play), and excellent shooting. The only thing that was missing was defense and competent officiating. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but there were some phantom calls. A bit picky if you ask me.

Conclusion

It’s a game that stays close throughout. I am not going to spoil this match for you, but I recommend you give it a try if you are a basketball fan. The rosters on Wikipedia are also a helpful resource, but be sure not to spoil the score and avoid the latest match score in the sidebar.

If you do watch the match, please let me know your thoughts. Comment!

Rubio-Jaric

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