Siena won its important Group B home opener 64-56 against Zalgiris Kaunas and Arvydas Sabonis on Thursday. The match started only after the Siena crowd gave Sabonis a long ovation. That's where the pleasantries ended, however. A hard-fought first half gave way to a nervous second one before Montepaschi's defense had the final say. As such Montepaschi improved to 1-1, the same Group B record as Zalgiris, which had won 11 straight games to start the Lithuanian League and Euroleague season. For Siena, Vrbica Stefano led the way with 14 points and David Andersen followed him with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds, mostly in the first half. Bootsy Thornton And David Vanterpool added 10 points apiece. Sabonis played 35 minutes and racked up a double-double of 18 points and 16 rebounds, but found help only from Tanoka Beard with 14 points.
Montepaschi started with a 4-0 run on jumpers by Stefanov and Andersen, while Sabonis hit his first basket with a layup after an offensive board. After 7 minutes, with Siena's advantage at 11-8, neither backcourt had scored apart from that early shot by Stefanov. While Zalgiris tried to feed the ball to Beard and Sabonis, Siena put the shot in the sweet hands of Andersen from mid-range. Roberto Chiacig tried to carry Sabonis outside the paint too, shooting 2 of 2 from 4 meters. Sabonis rested after 8 minutes and 6 points and then Misha Beric gave the guests their first lead, 14-16, with 4 points in a row. Zalgiris held a 16-18 advantage after 10 minutes.
Giacomo Galanda tied with a corner jumper for Siena to open the second quarter, and then Stefanov grabbed the hosts a 20-18 lead with a rainbow shot over Sabonis. After 11 minutes, Dainius Salenga sank the first triple of the tight match. With Siena up 24-21, Zalgiris answered with 6 points in a row for a 24-27 lead. Then the Sabonis-Andersen duel caught fire with an incredible series of face-to-face jumpers. Otherwise, Siena suddenly increased the pace of the match thanks to a Mikalis Kakiouzis triple and 5 points from David Vanterpool. Giedrius Gustas found an important three-pointer to keep Zalgiris within 36-30, but Montepaschi was still ahead 40-34 at the half with Andersen up to 12 points.
Both teams returned on the court with a series of misses. After 2 minutes without a basket, Beric finally scored free throws, but Stefanov followed him with a bomb to put Montepaschi up 43-35. Beard went to work in the low post for two Zalgiris baskets, while Chiacig engaged Sabonis in a tough battle under the boards and stole 2 balls from the legend. The shooting percentages fell deeply, down near the 40 percent, during the third quarter and both teams suffered many turnovers. After 8 minutes Siena had scored only 6 points and the guests answered with 7. So Montepaschi still had a 46-41 lead at the end of the period.
Beric suddenly broke the drought with a triple and Beard added a basket-plus-foul as Zalgiris seized a 46-47 lead. When Sabonis added 2 free throws, the visitors looked good until a Galanda free throw and a triple from Bootsy Thornton revived Siena at 50-49. Sabonis answered with a delicious baby hook for 50-51 but he missed his fifth three-point attempt immediately later. Neither team found the basket again for 3 minutes, until Kakiouzis drilled a triple from the corner for a 53-51 Siena lead. Sabonis then tied from the foul line, but Stefanov fired the next Siena three-pointer. Zalgiris tried a small lineup and a zone, got a couple points back and then pulled within just one, 57-56, on 2 free throws by Mindaugas Timinskas. A free throw by Thornton added a point to Montepaschi's lead, then Sabonis tried to tie, but ball rolled out. Then he fouled Vanterpool, who shot 1 of 2 from the line. The match was still open until Stefanov stole from Cota and Zalgiris tried to stop the clock with a foul that was ruled flagrant. Montepaschi wrapped up the win with those free throws.
Thursday, November 13, 2003