Real Madrid overcame a tough challenge from Khimki Moscow Region to remain perfect with a 79-74 victory, boosting the reigning champs' record to 7-0.
Madrid was in front nearly all the way without being able to establish a truly commanding lead as Khimki battled hard to stay in touch, but a late flurry from Jaycee Carroll proved enough. Carroll paced the hosts with 15 points, followed by Fabien Causeur with 13 points and Facundo Campazzo with 10. Khimki, which was without league-leading scorer Alexey Shved due to illness, was led by 16 points apiece from Tony Crocker and Anthony Gill, the latter of whom made 8 of 9 two point attempts. Malcolm Thomas scored 13 and Jordan Mickey added a double-double of 12 points – all on three-pointers – and 10 rebounds for Khimki, which dropped to 1-6.
Causeur scored the game's first 6 points as Madrid started strong. Gill delivered a trio of well-executed two-pointers, but birthday boy Sergio Llull struck twice from deep and Madrid's defense controlled the remainder of the first quarter, which finished 19-12 despite a late triple from Dee Bost. Campazzo kicked off the second quarter from deep, before Khimki's offense started moving through 5 quick points from Thomas. A couple of close-range finishes from Gustavo Ayon helped extend Madrid's advantage into double figures, but a pair of tough baskets from Andrey Zubkov and Tony Crocker's triple kept the visitors in touch. Two more Thomas baskets helped make it 41-35 at halftime. The third quarter was closely contested as Mickey stepped up with a trio of triples, while Anthony Randolph and Causeur both scored twice for the home team. Khimki continued to rally and briefly moved ahead for the first time, but Gabriel Deck scored the last points of the quarter with an improvised alley-oop layup that made it 56-55. Crocker's three tied the game early in the fourth, but a pair of mid-range strikes from Carroll restored Madrid's lead, before his first three-pointer and then free throws made it 74-64 with three minutes left. Khimki failed to score any field goals for more than four minutes and another Carroll jumper appeared to have sealed the deal. Mickey struck from deep again to keep Khimki hoping, but more free throws from Carroll really did secure the outcome this time.
Carroll starts cold, finishes hot
It took Jaycee Carroll a long time to get himself warmed up in this contest, with the veteran sharpshooter failing to score at all in the first three quarters. But when Khimki opened the final period by going ahead 56-57, Carroll decided it was time to take over. His first points came with a pair of free throws with nine minutes remaining, and from that moment he was almost unstoppable, making 4 of 5 field goal attempts and scoring all six of his free throw attempts, netting 15 points in the final quarter.
Shved loss shrugged off...for a while
You might think that losing the services of a player who has averaged 24.2 points per game would spell the end of Khimki's challenge, but the Muscovites were able to overcome the absence of Alexey Shved to push the reigning champs all the way. In the end, however, Khimki's offensive struggled in crunch time by going more than four minutes without a field goal in the fourth quarter, and who knows whether Shved would have made all the difference at that time if he'd been on the floor?
Khimki wins rebounding battle
One reason that Khimki was able to remain competitive was its domination of the rebounding battle, taking 37 boards compared to 29 from Madrid. Jordan Mickey was the main man with 10 rebounds, while Mickey and Anthony Gill both grabbed 4 offensive boards. Khimki ultimately couldn't make enough of those second-chance possessions count, but it kept them hoping.
Madrid remains at home for an all-Spanish affair with the visit of Herbalife Gran Canaria on Tuesday, while Khimki is back in Moscow a day later to face Buducnost VOLI Podgorica.