Zalgiris escapes Milan with a thrilling win
Zalgiris Kaunas held on to first place in Group C after escaping from Mediolanum Forum in the fashion capital with a 65-67 success over EA7 Emporio Armani Milan on Friday. Zalgiris and Olympiacos share first place with 7-2 records, but the Lithuanian champs have the tiebreak in their favor. Armani dropped to 3-6 – the same record as Caja Laboral in the fight to advance to the next round. Caja Laboral won both games with Milan and will hosts Cedevita Zagreb, while Armani will visit the defending champion Olympiacos Piraeus. Armani used a 13-4 run to open the second quarter and take a 29-22 lead before zone defense helped the home team finish ahead 37-32 at halftime. EA7 took a 46-38 margin early in the third quarter, but Zalgiris used a 4-13 run to go in front 50-51. Gianluca Basile triples gave a 56-51 advantage to EA7, Jaaber tied it at 58-58 and then the team exchanged leads, but Paulius Jankunas with consecutive baskets gave the visitors the lead for good on 63-65. Jankunas led the winners with 16 points and Tremmel Darden and Marko Popovic drained 14 apiece. For Armani, Keith Langford scored 20, Ioannis Bourousis 13 and from Antonis Fotsis 10.
First quarter: Jankunas and Kaukenas put Zalgiris in front
Darden came off a screen and scored from mid range to open things. Bourousis’s soft touch from the arc gave EA7 its first lead, 3-2. Antonis Fotsis and Bourousis increased it to 7-2. Langford and Popovic exchanged layups before Darden closed the gap to 9-7. Bourousis remained on fire from mid range; Popovic completed a three-point-play before Paulius Jankunas gave an 11-12 advantage to the guests after forcing EA7 into a 24 seconds violation. Langford scored from downtown assisted by Omar Cook. Then Rimas Kaukenas kept the score tied at 14-14 with a jumper and then put his team in front, 14-16. A Jankunas power move on the baseline and Malik Hairston jumper made it 16-18 for the visitors after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Zone defense helps Armani take the lead
Richard Hendrix tied the game from the foul line before Mindaugas Kuzminskas finished a quick break with a two-handed dunk. However 8 points in a row by Langford gave a 26-20 margin to EA7. Darden closed a scoreless stretch for the visitors by pulling down an offensive rebound for a layup before Fotsis and Popovic scored from downtown to go on 29-25. Ksistof Lavrinovic, Jankunas and Daredn posted free throws to make it 29-30, but Cook, from long distance, gave again a 32-30 cushion to Milan. Zone defense put the guests in trouble, while free throws by Fotsis and Bourousis extended the difference to 37-30 with 48 seconds left in the quarter. Popovic’s rainbow shot fueled Kaunas to within 37-32 at halftime.
Third quarter: Stipcevic pushes Milan in front
Kaukenas opened the third quarter with a layup, but a Fotsis three pointer restored a 40-34 lead for Milan. Hairston fueled EA7 in the paint. Kaukenas found easy points with a reverse layup, copied by Langford after stealing a ball to make it 44-36. Lavrinovic kept Zalgiris in charge, but Langford from the foul line extended the margin to 46-38 at the midway point of the quarter. Lavrinovic beat the 24-second clock with a layup, then Jankunas completed a three-point play to close to 47-43. Popovic scored 4 free throws to tie the score at 47-47 after a 9-1 run. Veteran Gianluca Basile came on the court and scored a few seconds later from downtown. Jeff Foote was perfect at the line, and Darden finished the fast break with a layup for a 50-51 advantage for the guests. Rok Stipcevic hit a three to put Armani in front 53-51 at the end of the third quarter.
Fourth quarter: Jankunas leads Zalgiris to a thrilling win
Basile opened the last quarter beating the 24 second clock from beyond the arc for a new 56-51 margin for EA7. Darden fueled the visitors from the foul line and seconds later assisted by Foote with a layup to make it 56-55. Nicolo Melli, assisted by Cook, found easy points in the open court, then Jaaber beat the 2-3 zone from downtown to tie the score at 58. Big men Melli and Bourousis connected to score and give Milan another slim margin, but a three by Jankunas put the guests ahead 60-61. Langford completed a three-point-play to go ahead 63-61, then Jankunas finished a pick-and-roll to tie it again and then with a baby hook gave a 63-65 advantage to Kaunas. Cook stole a crucial ball and drew a foul with 21.3 seconds left, but scored just 1 of his attempts from the foul line to make it 64-65. In a thrilling finale Jaaber with 17.8 seconds in the game scored a pair, Cook with 13.9 seconds remained missed one of two from the line. Then Jaabber missed both before Langford missed the potential layup to tie score, and Zalgiris escaped with a 65-67 win.
Friday, December 7, 2012