Friday, December 8, 2023

Surne Bilbao 71- Unicaja 103: Great win… and fifth place

Unicaja will play the playoff for the title, starting next Sunday, without home field advantage. The greens won their match this Tuesday at the Bilbao Arena 71-103 with authority, but the second part of the mandatory equation to achieve fourth place in the standings was not fulfilled. It was necessary for Lenovo Tenerife to lose in La Laguna against Casademont Zaragoza, already released from any league goal. And in Tenerife what had to happen happened: victory for Vidorreta’s men 92-69. Fourth place for them and fifth for a remarkable tall Unicaja bordering on outstanding in this Regular League that is already closing.

The greens gave a good image on the Surne field in a match in which from the middle of the first quarter they were far superior to their rival. And it is that Bilbao was always in tow, without options to even compete with those of Los Guindos. Without Alberto Díaz and without Jonathan Barreiro, Unicaja was a cyclone. He dominated the rebound, pressed on defense, ran especially when Perry was on the field and had great ability to always find clear shooting options. Carter, Ejim and Kalinoski had a super day from the 6.75 line and their superiority was undeniable.

I don’t know what will happen in that quarterfinal matchup against Lenovo. There is so much equality between the two teams that not even the track factor makes the Canaries much more favorites to be in the semifinals. What Unicaja did show against Surne is that they are ready for the challenge. The “slump” of the Final Four is over and it seems that the team faces the challenge of the quarterfinals with blind confidence in being able to give a good image and “make a mess”. Playing at this level of intensity and with this success…

And that Unicaja started the game cold. The first three attacks went to limbo in a performance that could be improved by those led by Ibon Navarro. Of course, it was something temporary. It didn’t take long for the team to “warm up” thanks to the wrist of a regular “secondary actor” Melvin Ejim, who made three triples without a miss (12-12). The dominance in the rebound and the possibility of running allowed Unicaja to leave with a lead of 7 points in favor, which remained at 5, 16-21 at the end of the first quarter.

There was an exchange of blows in the following minutes. Bilbao found a very successful Reyes on their bench and the forces were equalized, but playing fast basketball and dominating the fight under the hoops, the compositors threatened to escape, 26-34, just over four minutes to the intermission. Whithey did damage in the paint and gave his team a bit of air, but Unicaja pressed on defense, put in a lot of hands, appeared in a lot of passing lanes, set a very high pace for their offensive game and reached the break with a interesting advantage on the scoreboard, 41-49. Good first 20 minutes of a Unicaja far superior to its rival.

Second time without history

Unicaja bet on a small area to see how it is. Perry’s third foul, too early, with only two minutes left in the third quarter, did not stop the team. A Will Thomas free kick put it at +13, two Perry free kicks at +15 and a triple from Djedovic at +18, 46-64. Jaume Ponsarnau asked for time to stop the bleeding, with just under 5 minutes to play. Carter drew his rifle and the lead continued to grow. Up to 21 up were the compositors, who closed the third quarter with the game sentenced: 52-71.

The last quarter had little history. Navarro distributed minutes, the team continued hammering the rival hoop and even exceeded +30. Mario Saint Supéry had 4 minutes in which he had time to be the protagonist with 5 points. In the end: 71-103. Too easy for what could be expected.

Well, the Regular League is over. Next Sunday, at 9:00 p.m., while all of Spain is watching which mayor has come out of their town, Unicaja will begin the challenge of seeking a place in the semifinals of the League in Tenerife. Unicaja is once again one of the best teams in Spain. He demonstrated it in February in Badalona and he wants to demonstrate it this June in the ACB. And you have to believe in these guys because they have shown that they deserve it.


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