Neptunas survives Laboral, Heurtel comeback to win 80-79
Neptunas Klaipeda took its third home win in a cliff-hanger on Thursday by surviving a strong comeback try from Laboral Kutxa Vitoria to win 80-79. A game of wild swings came down to the last minute, when Simas Galdikas scored the game winner with 13 seconds left. Neptunas raised its Group D record to 3-3 - which could be good enough for a second-place tie by week's end - while Laboral, in its first game under head coach Ibon Navarro, dropped to 2-4. Neptunas led by 18 points, 53-35, midway through the third quarter when Laboral guard Thomas Heurtel exploded with 12 points to lead a 2-17 run that lasted 4 minutes. After that, the game remained close but the lead didn't change hands until Heurtel made his eighth three-point for a 73-75 in the game's next-to-last minute. Deividas Gailius banked in a triple to give Neptunas a lead back on the one-minute mark, but Kim Tille's free throws put Laboral back in front until Mindaugas Girdziunas fed Galdikas 3 seconds later. When Huertel's last shot rimmed out, Neptunas had survived. Donatas Zavackas and Mustafa Shakur had 16 points each for the winners, while Gailius followed with 12. Heurtel finished with 31 points, his Euroleague career-high, on 8-for-10 three-point shooting, matched the third-most shots made from the arc in the Euroleague this century. His were also the second-fewest misses with 8 or more triples made in EL this century, surpassed only by another player from the club, Saulius Stombergas, who made 9 of 9 in 2001. Colton Iverson added 12 points for Laboral, but the visitors will regret going 0 for 7 at the free throw line to start the game and finishing 14 for 25 there.
First quarter: Neptunas free throws make difference
Iverson slammed an offensive rebound as Laboral scored first. Within seconds, Zavackas struck from downtown to put Neptunas ahead, but Iverson hit an acrobatic basket in response to make it 3-4. Iverson kept scoring with a transition basket. Shakur's free throws got the hosts closer before Galdikas took back the lead, 7-6, with a bank shot. Zavackas was left open and made Laboral pay with his second triple, but Tornike Shengelia scored posting up to make it 10-8. Two-pointers by Galdikas and Zavackas gave Neptunas its biggest lead yet before Heurtel got on the scoreboard for Laboral. Martynas Mazeikas and Valdas Vasylius were perfect on 4 of 4 free throws, giving Neptunas a 17-11 lead that could be traced to 6-of-6 free throw shooting as opposed to Laboral's 0 for 6 until then. Ilimane Diop came off Laboral's bench and broke that cold streak with 2 free throws. Vasylius and Heurtel traded baskets before the first-quarter buzzer sounded with the hosts ahead 20-15.
Second quarter: Zavackas first hosts ahead
Arnas Butkevicius for Neptunas and Tillie for Laboral brought points from the bench for their team to open the second quarter. Diop slammed to get the visitors closer before Heurtel buried his second triple. When Sasha Vujacic joined the Laboral scorers with a jumper, the score was tied 24-24 and Neptunas needed a timeout. Egidijus Dimsa restored the home team's lead with a hook shot to which Butkevicius added a free throw at 27-24. Neptunas nursed that difference despite Tillie's put-back and dueling three-pointers between Mazeika and Davis Bertans that kept Laboral within 30-29. Shakur stepped up then with a series of three mid-range jumpers separated by baskets for Laboral from Iverson and Bertans on the break. But with a layup from Gailius and Zavackas stepping up with his third three-pointer in as many tries to finish the half, Neptunas suddenly had its biggest lead, 41-33, going into the break.
Third quarter: Huge scoring swings keep it close
Gailius made a pair of strong drives around a nice reverse by Shengalia to open the second half. Gailius then stole and fed Shakur for a breakaway dunk that forced a Laboral timeout at 47-35. Shakur's free throws and long two-pointer came next, giving Neptunas its biggest advantage of the game and the season, 51-35. Newly-signed shot blocker Mirza Begic did his job for Laboral but that didn't prevent Mazeika from upping the lead with a behind-the-back fake and layup to cap a 13-2 run since halftime. It took an unsportsmanlike flopping foul on Gailius to help Laboral resume scoring with a free throw from Heurtel, who soon added a triple to make it 53-39. Begic dropped a hook shot to cut the distance, the Huertel made a killer cross-over and three-pointer before feeding Bertans with a long-distance assist for a fastbreak layup-plus-free throw. Suddenly, the 18-point Neptunas lead had shrunk to 6 points, 53-47. After a timeout, Zavackas stopped the bleeding for the hosts with a layup that Heurtel matched with free throws. Heurtel kept his team on his back with another three-pointer at 55-52. Mindaugas Girdziunas hit 4 perfect three throws to 2 by Begic, but Iverson missed 2 more, giving him 0-for-7 to that point. Girdziunas took advantage with a jumper to end the quarter with his team back in a comfort zone, ahead 61-54.
Fourth quarter: Laboral rallies but Neptunas slams door
Girdziunas picked up where he left off, sinking another jumper, before Gailius did the same, got fouled and dropped the free throw for a new double-digit lead, 66-54. Heurtel's sixth three-pointer and a fastbreak layup by Fabien Causeur revived Laboral and trimmed the difference to 66-59 with 6 minutes left. Mazeika answered with 2 free throws and Dimsa 1 for Neptunas, which now led 68-59. Begic got 2 back on an inside basket, then the unstoppable Heurtel blasted yet another triple. When Fernando San Emeterio hit 2 free throws on an unsportsmanlike foul and Begic completed a four-point possession with a fadeaway, it was suddenly tied 68-68 with 4 minutes left. Shakur restored the Neptunas lead with a jump shot. Yet more missed free throws, these by Begic, saw Zavackas punish Laboral with a huge triple, his fifth, at 73-68. San Emeterio drove for a layup and Begic made his third block. A steal by Iverson gave Heurtel a breakaway layup at 73-72 with 2 minutes left. An inbounds steal by Tille set up the eighth three-pointer by Heurtel for Laboral's first lead since the game's early minutes, 73-75. Galdikas answered for Neptunas, then Iverson made his first 2 free throws after 7 previous misses to make it 75-77. On the one-minute mark, Gailius banked in a triple, putting Neptunas ahead, but after Laboral missed, a turnover let Tille go the free throw line and make 2 of 2 for a 78-79 visitors' lead with 16 seconds left. Out of a timeout, Neptunas attacked the basket quickly as Girdziunas fed Galdikas for a go-ahead layup with still 13 seconds remaining. After its own timeout, Laboral gave the ball to Heurtel, but his stop-and-pop, two-pointer from the lane did everything but go in. With 1.2 seconds left, Gailius missed both of his free throws, but Laboral couldn't get a shot off and Neptunas survived with the victory.
Thursday, November 20, 2014