Despite losing its first seven games and missing its starting center, Zalgiris lives to fight another day for Group B's last Top 16 berth after it stopped visiting SLUC Nancy 105-94 on Thursday in Kaunas, Lithuania. The result left Zalgiris and Nancy tied for fourth place at 2-7 with Asseco Prokom Sopot of Poland. All three teams play the qualified trio above them next week: Nancy at home against Siena, Zalgiris at Barcelona and Prokom at Panathinaikos. Zalgiris will advance with a victory if either Nancy or Prokom lose. Nancy will advance only if it wins while both Zalgiris and Prokom lose. If all three win or all three lose, Prokom advances by a three-point difference in games among the three. Zalgiris prolonged Thursday's victory trying to make up that difference, as a triple by Jonas Maciulis to start the final minute effectively sealed the outcome, 87-79. A total of 33 points were shared after that thanks to many fouls. However, despite tying the Euroleague record for points in a quarter, 41, Zalgiris could not overcome, in the end, Prokom's 29-point victory against Nancy in the second game of the season. Maciulis finished with 29 points for the winners, who played without their second-best scorer and top rebounder, Loren Woods. Dainius Salenga added 18 points, Tadas Klimavicius 15, Mantas Kalnietis 12 and Andrius Milaknis 11. Paulius Jankunas shined with 15 points and 17 rebounds. For Nancy, Steed Tchicamboud led teh way with 21 points, while Ricardo Greer had 19, Cyril Julian 16 and Lamayne Wilson 10.
Eurelijus Zukauskas tried to set the tone for Zalgiris by blocking a Ricardo Greer shot, but Greer grabbed the ball and scored. Zukauskas was hit in the face on the play and left the floor with a bloody nose. Klimavicius stepped in and made his presence felt, scoring twice as Zalgiris went up 8-4. Julian closed the gap with a three-point play, but Maciulis and Jankunas kept the hosts rolling. Julian flicked in a one-hander only to see Kalnietis connect from downtown and soon add free throws to make it 17-9. Nancy came back to life with baskets on consecutive trips downcourt from Victor Samnick and Tchicamboud. Akin Akinbala followed with his first Euroleague basket – a short jumper – and then Jeff Greer knotted the game with a long jumper. Ricardo Greer went to the glass and then penetrated inside to complete a 0-12 charge for reenergized Nancy. Salenga’s layup in transition drew Zalgiris back to 19-21 after 10 minutes.
Tchicamboud and Klimavicus traded baskets before Salenga’s jumper tied the score at 23-23. Tchicamboud then fed Akingbala for a monster jam that silenced the crowd and Wilson added to Zalgiris’s woes with a bucket in the paint. Michel Moraindais flew in for another impressive dunk to give the visitors a 23-29 lead. Maciulis revived Zalgiris with a triple, but baskets by Julian and John Cox kept Nancy in control. Jankunas brought Zalgiris all the way back with a triple that tied the score at 35-35 and Klimavicus converted a three-point play to put the Lithuanian champs ahead. Wilson rose high for a one-handed slam, but Zalgiris finished the half on a high note as Kalnietis’s jumper beat the buzzer to make it 40-37.
Ankingbala opened the second half with a dunk and Ricardo Greer soon penetrated to tie it up, 41-41. Jankunas’s slam and Maciulis’s three thrilled the crowd, as did blocks by Jankunas and Klimavicus at the other end, helping the hosts go up 48-43. But a foul on Tadavicius and a technical on the Zalgiris bench threatened to shift the momentum. Nancy didn't take advantage, however, making just 2 of 6 free throws to get within 48-45. Zalgiris turned around and got a Klimavicius layup, a Salenga free throw and a Jankunas jumper to make it 53-45. A fourth-chance basket by Greer rallied Nancy within 53-49, but Maciulis did the same thing on the other end. His came with a free throw plus a technical on Samnick, so when Arturas Milaknis ended the possession with a driving layup, Zalgiris had 6 more points and a 59-49 lead. Julian got a basket back for Nancy, Layman a free throw and Cox a big triple to make it 61-55. Before the quarter could end, Jankunas completed a three-point play for Zalgiris, but despite his fourth foul on that play, Julian did the same, leaving a 64-58 scoreboard after 30 minutes
Ricardo Greer struck first in the fourth quarter, with an acrobatic layup and free throw at 64-61. Klimavicius answered for Zalgiris, but Tchicamboud soon got it back with a full-court drive. He then drew a fourth foul on Jankunas and followed it with another basket at 66-65. Milaknis came out of nowhere to give Zalgiris new life with a big triple, but Greer got another easy layup for a 69-67 score with 6 mintues left. Sarunas Vasiliauskis and Milanknis scored for Zalgiris around a basket by Akingbala before Morandais nailed a triple to make it 73-72. Another big offensive rebound let Maciulis bury a huge three-pointer at 76-72. Tchicamboud next hit 3 of 4 free throws, again cutting the difference to a point, 76-75. After a timeout with 3 minutes left, Wilson put Nancy ahead with an out-and-in triple from the top, but Salenga drove, dunk and hit the go-ahead free throw. Seconds later, he blasted a triple to make it 82-78 and added a pair of free throws for good measure. When, entering the final minute, Maciulis followed him from downtown to make it 87-79, the outcome was clear. And the fouling started. When the scoring finally ended 33 points later, Zalgiris had tied the single-quarter record of 41 points held since 2000 by Real Madrid. That didn't suppply all the tie-break advantages Zalgiris wanted, but after seven straight losses to open the season, its Top 16 fate was largely in its own hands now.
Thursday, January 8, 2009