Real Madrid takes title at last gasp

Llull basket in dying moments hands team King's Cup win

Real Madrid captain Felipe Reyes (c) lifts the King´s Cup trophy.
Real Madrid captain Felipe Reyes (c) lifts the King´s Cup trophy. Jorge Zapata (EFE)

A basket from Sergio Llull in the dying seconds handed Real Madrid victory by the narrowest of margins in the final of this year's King's Cup against FC Barcelona in Málaga on Sunday.

Coach Pablo Laso's team triumphed 76-77 over the reigning champion, to regain the trophy it last won two years ago.

It marked a record 24th King's Cup title for Real in the tournament, which is disputed each year by the eight top-placed teams in the Liga ACB. Before Sunday it had been tied with Barcelona on 23 crowns apiece.

The match was equally neck and neck from start to finish. In the first half neither team could eke out a gap larger than four points with Barcelona reaching the halfway stage 42-38 in front. Two three-pointers from Rudy Fernández helped turn that score round in Madrid's favor at the start of the third quarter (47-51) but three baskets in quick succession from Marcelinho Huertas pulled Barça back.

Poised at 59-60 at the start of the fourth, a three-pointer from Nikolas Mirotic -- who was named the MVP with 17 points and 11 rebounds -- helped Real open the widest margin in the match (64-71). At 68-75 with a minute to go, the match looked to be safely in Real's hands but an incredible streak (8-0) led by Brad Oleson put Barça in a 76-75 lead, before Llull arrived to snatch back victory for the Liga ACB leader.

"This nice-looking final slipped through our fingers," said Barça coach Xavi Pascual afterwards. "It was a match we had fairly well under control. We lacked a bit of accuracy in the third quarter that allowed the game to equal out."

Real, which remains unbeaten in the Liga ACB this season, had beaten an unstoppable path to the final of this year's tournament at the Palacio de Deportes José María Martín Carpena, beating Herbalife Gran Canaria 83-60 in the quarters and then blowing away CAI Zaragoza 98-66 in Saturday's semifinal.

Barcelona had thrashed Iberostar Tenerife 102-60 in the quarters, before squeezing past Valencia Basket 89-81 in the final four.

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