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Real Madrid Basketball, 2012: Playing Through the First Slump of the Season

Jaycee Carroll against Bilbao's defense (photo via Realmadrid.com)

Real Madrid's basketball team is now officially at their worst since the season started. The Euroleague and Spanish Basketball league's calendars wanted the team to play against Bilbao three times in just seven days, and they finished with a 1-2 record against the Basque team.

The team is no longer leading the Spanish league reaching the Euroleague's Final Four will be almost impossible. Given that the team still has a chance of advancing to the next round, Montepaschi Siena is likely going to win the group. That will leave CSKA Moscow (the best team in basketball's Euroleague) to play against Real Madrid.

The team managed to win the first game against Bilbao last week. Bilbao visited Madrid's court and Laso's team played really well through the match so the visitors were unable to get in a rhythm. This first game took place in the Euroleague, and Real Madrid finished with a good margin of 16 points. This is very important in case both teams finish this phase with the exact same record.

In Sunday's second game against Bilbao, the Basque team had to play yet again in Real Madrid's court. This game was a very contested one, but Bilbao's three-point shooting and competitive play made Madrid uncomfortable. Former Real Madrid player D'Or Fischer hit some key jumpers and sealed the win for the "Men in Black, while Sergio Rodríguez was close to fighting some Bilbao players.

The league loss was not that important, however, because what ultimately counts are the playoffs--though Real Madrid needed to get the win (or at least, a close loss) against Bilbao on Miribilla, one of the toughest opponents on the calendar). Real Madrid's rivals were great during the first quarter and managed to keep the big lead for the rest of the game. They won the game by 24 points, so Madrid must now win all other games and wait for Bilbao to lose one.

Even if that happens, CSKA Moscow will be Real Madrid's rival for the next Euroleague phase. It would be very hard for the team to win even a single game against the Russian team, so beating their rival in the Playoff Round seems impossible. CSKA is arguably the best team in European basketball with Guard Milos Teodosic, former NBA Forward Andrey Kirilenko, Darius Siskaukas, Darius Lavrinovic and former NBA Center Nedad Krstic.

In the European basketball world, this is clearly the team that should win the Euroleague title at the end of the season. They haven't lost a single game in the European competition and have tremendous depth waiting on the bench.

Sergio Llull is clearly Real Madrid's big disappointment this season. He's not a point guard, but the team needs him to play in that position. Sergio Rodríguez (whose basketball IQ and court vision are subpar) is the only man for that spot. Llull's lack of concentration really hurts Real Madrid. In the past few seasons, he was a very explosive and powerful defender, but he also provided offensive production off the bench.

Rudy's return to the team next season is looking unlikely--he's now enjoying playing time and production with the Denver Nuggets.

Even if Rudy returns to the team for next season, Real Madrid Basketball will need to make some very important trades if they want to fight for the Euroleague title. A true point guard and a powerful center should be Real Madrid's goals for the offseason.

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