Down 21, ALBA rallies past Rytas
Martin Hermannsson capped a career night by making the go-ahead free throws with 1.6 seconds remaining to lift ALBA Berlin to a hard-fought 87-85 victory over Rytas Vilnius on Tuesday at Mercedes-Benz Arena. Hermannsson scored a career-best 25 points in 6-of-8 three-point shooting in lifting ALBA to a 3-1 record and first place in Group E of the Top 16. ALBA is now one win away from clinching a berth in the quarterfinals. Rokas Giedraitis netted 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting from downtown, Niels Giffey added 10 points and Luke Sikma posted 9 points and 7 assists for the winners. Eimantas Bendzius paced Rytas with 16 points, D.J. Seeley scored 14 and Art Parakhouski and Rok Stipcevic added 12 points apiece. The loss dropped Rytas to 1-3.
The hosts started well and led 10-4 after a Luke Sikma layup, but back-to-back three-pointers by Bendzius soon tied the game. Stipcevic gave Rytas its first lead with a pair of free throws that made it 10-12 midway through the first quarter. Rytas led by as many as 5 with Chris Kramer capping a 2-13 charge before Giedraitis got ALBA back on track with a triple. Giffey made ALBA's fifth three of the opening quarter to bring his team within 25-27 after 10 minutes. Hermannsson's basket-plus-foul tied the score early in the second quarter, however, Seeley scored 5 in a 2-11 surge that made it 31-40. Bendzius's third three of the night gave Rytas a double-digit lead and it kept on growing. Stipcevic followed free throws with a three-pointer that gave the visitors a 39-57 cushion at the break. Bendzius started the second half with another triple that pushed the margin into the 20s. Hermannsson heated up for ALBA to close the gap to 46-62 before Rytas called timeout. The brief stop did little to cool down the ALBA guard, who knocked down 2 more triples and a baseline jumper to get his team within 8. Parakhouski free throws stopped the ALBA run at 11-0, but Hermannsson sank another three and Stefan Peno scored on consecutive possessions, which prompted a Rytas timeout at 64-67. Rytas led 66-70 entering the fourth quarter only to see ALBA strike quickly and take the lead 71-70 on Franz Wagner's second-chance layup-and-one. Giffey added a three to cap an 8-0 start to the quarter before Parakhouski's putback revived Rytas. Rytas kept it close and Seeley's three-pointer made it 84-83 with 1:10 to go and Stipcevic's layup gave Rytas the lead with 29 seconds remaining. After a frantic possession that saw ALBA miss twice, Hermannsson was fouled with 1.6 seconds remaining and sank 3 free throws to win it. Seeley caught a long pass and had a shot to tie it at the buzzer, but came up short.
Numbers behind the score
ALBA was buoyed by its excellent three-point shooting (12 of 26; 46.2%) plus its 13 offensive and 40 total rebounds. Rytas was aided by committing only 6 turnovers while dishing 20 assists, but paid a price for its subpar two-point shooting (14 of 33; 42.4%).
This game had a great many turning points, but the final one came via offensive rebounds from Joshiko Saibou and Luke Sikma on ALBA's final possession. If Rytas gets either of those, it runs out the clock. Instead, Sikma got the ball to Martin Hermannsson who won it from the line.
Hermannsson the hero
Martin Hermannsson has scored in double figures and made a three-pointer in all but one of the 10 games he's played in the 7DAYS EuroCup this season, but he was at his best on Tuesday. The guard from Iceland scored 25 points and made 6 three-pointers, which were both personal bests. He only scored 5 points in the first half before exploding for 17 over a 5-minute stretch in the third quarter. He then had a quieter fourth quarter, only registering an assist to Niel Giffey that made it 78-74 before drawing the late foul and sinking the game-winning shots.
ALBA Berlin goes on the road next week to face AS Monaco on Tuesday knowing a win secures its place in the quarterfinals. Rytas visits the Serbian capital on Wednesday to face Partizan NIS Belgrade knowing a loss ends it quarterfinals hopes.
Tuesday, January 22, 2019