Narrow defeat brings curtain down on a successful season for Unicaja

Unicaja led for a large part of the game but were made to pay for a few lapses at the end.
Unicaja led for a large part of the game but were made to pay for a few lapses at the end. / Ñito Salas
  • The side's 76-73 defeat, their third in a row against Real Madrid, sees them miss out on the Liga Endesa playoff final

Unicaja's season came to an end on Sunday night with an undeserved 76-73 home loss to Real Madrid.

The hosts led for 36 minutes of the game, but tiredness, poor decisions and the opposition's talent eventually brought about Unicaja's exit from the play-offs, after losing the previous two ties in Madrid.

The season was nonetheless a success for Unicaja, with European glory in the form of the EuroCup trophy and consequent EuroLeague qualification for next season, in addition to reaching the semi-finals of the league playoffs, an excellent return from a season which started on the back foot.

Unicaja came out of the traps much quicker than their rivals, with their impressive rebounding and defensive performance causing several problems to Real Madrid.

Unfortunately, Joan Plaza's side failed to convert their domination into a significant points haul, going into the second quarter with a slender 14-11 lead.

A lack of points from Unicaja's pivots resulted in a lack of balance in their game, misplaced passes and some inaccurate close-range shooting. Nevertheless, three consecutive three-pointers from Carlos Suárez saw Unicaja extend their lead against the side from the capital to eight points.

Pablo Laso was forced to call a time-out as a result, but Real Madrid's head coach made sure his side hit back, with Felipe Reyes and Gustavo Ayón scoring their first three-pointers of the game to bring themselves within touching distance of the Malaga side, with the scores 33-31 at half-time.

Dejan Musli led from the front at the start of the third quarter, with his eighth point of the match in the 28th minute putting the Malaga side into a 50-41 lead.

Plaza's side had Madrid where they wanted them, but a couple of attacks which led to quick turnovers saw the visitors hit back in some style by scoring 10 points while conceding just two, bringing the score to 52-51.

The final quarter saw another individual rise to the occasion, but unfortunately for the hosts it was Real Madrid's Luka Dončić. The Slovenian youngster responded to nearly every Unicaja basket with one of his own, and put Real Madrid into a 67-64 lead with just three minutes remaining.

Christian Eyenga attempted to restore the hosts' lead with a little over a minute remaining, but a rash three-point effort saw Real Madrid break and Sergio Llull score four free throws in quick succession.

Nemanja Nedović gave Unicaja hope with two three-point baskets, but a final effort from Llull decided the game once and for all and ended what overall has been an excellent season for the Malaga side.