|04 June 2012|
|Sergio Rodriguez contributed nine points and eight assists in Game 5 of Real Madrid's semi-final series against Caja Laboral. |
'El clasico' (the rivalry matchup between the two powerhouses FC Barcelona and Real Madrid) is on the cards in the play-off finals of Spain's top flight Liga Endesa with defending champions FC Barcelona set to take on Real Madrid.
Barcelona survived in a thrilling Game 4 at Valencia Basket on Friday night, 77-73, to win the semi-final series 3-1.
Madrid, meanwhile, came from 2-1 down in their series against Caja Laboral to win 3-2 and reach the title showdown for the first time in five years.
Barcelona were decisive winners in Game 3 in Valencia, 80-64, but Velimir Perasovic's young Valencia team almost forced a decider after a sensational display from France international Nando De Colo, who had 22 points.
Near the end, Valencia rebounded a Barcelona miss and rushed up the floor trailing by two points but Rodrigo San Miguel rushed up a three pointer, believing time was about to expire despite several seconds still being on the clock.
He missed badly and Barcelona rebounded before CJ Wallace iced the victory at the free-throw line.
"Valencia Basket have this season done something that was an example for all of us involved in this sport," Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual said, adding that their opponents had given everything and shown "heart, desire and enthusiasm."
"My congratulations to them and the fans that helped both teams. We love coming here. I also congratulate coach Perasovic. I think he has been brilliant this season ..."
Madrid, after falling 82-79 in overtime at Caja Laboral, hit back from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter to win Game 4, 76-66, with Novica Velickovic and Sergio Rodriguez leading the way.
Serbia international Velickovic, after struggling last season with injuries and fatigue, has returned to top form and had 22 points and five rebounds.
He was four of seven from behind the arc.
Rodriguez continued to play his best basketball of the season, scoring all 15 of his points from long range on five of six shooting.
Madrid, who are coached by Pablo Laso, prevailed 76-69 in Game 5 at home in front of an announced crowd of 13,109 spectators.
Laso's team beat Barcelona in the Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup) final but the Catalans won the regular season with a 29-5 record ahead of Madrid (26-8).
"Barcelona are the regular season champions. They deserve respect, they are the defending champions and it will be a challenge.
"They have the home court advantage that they have gained in the regular season and it looks like it will be a super difficult final but I have total confidence that the team will give its best until the last day."
The Liga Endesa play-off finals get underway on Wednesday at Barcelona.
The last time Madrid met Barcelona in the finals was in 2007, and Madrid won 3-1.