Lietuvos Rytas will keep sharing first place in Group B - at the least - after it turned back visiting Armani Jeans Milano by 75-62 at home in Vilnius, Lithuania on Wednesday. L. Rytas improved to 6-2 while awaiting the results of Unicaja and Maccabi Tel Aviv, the other two teams with whom it entered the week tied for first place. Milano slipped to 2-6 and will need to win again soon to entertain any slim Top 16 hopes. The visitors gave L. Rytas enough to handle early and tried to threaten in the second half, but never got close enough to challenge for the lead. Marijonas Petravicius again led L. Rytas offensively with 17 points on near-perfect shooting, 6 of 7 two-pointers and 5 of 5 free throws. Hollis Price added 15 points and Mindaugas Lukauskis 12, while Chuck Eidson's stat line read 8 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals. Teenage sensation Danilo Gallinari paced Milano with 16 points, while Ansu Sesay had all of his 14 in the first half and Dusan Vukcevic added 12.
L. Rytas started the game strong as Mindaugas Lukauskis fed Matthew Nielsen for an easy bucket, but Melvin Booker answered for Milano at the other end. Milano then found a comfort zone at the three-point arc, where Sesay and Gallinari blasted triples for a quick 4-8 lead. Next, Sesay and Casey Shaw broke through the L. Rytas were not patient enough in defense for layups. So, by the time, Sesay nailed another triple, Milano was up 7-15 and L. Rytas needed a timeout midway through the quarter. The chat helped as Price traded baskets with Sesay, who was soon covered by a different defender, Kenan Bajramovic. In the meantime, Price and Chuck Eidson took care of scoring as L. Rytas made a 7-0 run to make it 16-17. Milano needed the timeout, now, but it proved useless as Bajramovic and Jomantas buried triples as L. Rytas completed a 15-4 run by taking a 22-19 margin after 10 minutes.
Bajramovic opened the second quarter with a cozy jumper that Travis Watson matched for Milano, but the former stayed on fire by dunking off a nice dish by Eidson to make it 26-21. Gallinari and Marijonas Petravicius exchanged baskets then but L. Rytas kept improving on the lead as Petravicius converted an assist from Eidson and Price connected from long range as the hosts took the game's first double-digit advantage, 33-23. A rested Sesay came back in and immediately made Milano look livelier but Eidson nailed free throws and Jomantras penetrated maintain a 37-27 advantage. L. Rytas couldn't push it further, though, as points by Anthony Giovacchini and Vukcevic fueled a 0-7 run to get Milano within 37-34. After a timeout, L. Rytas finished quarter strong as Martynas Gecevicius and Price combined for 5 points to fix a 42-34 halftime score.
A chaotic minute opened the second half until Gallinari finally made a free throw. L. Rytas couldn't score for more than 2 minutes and Milano took advantage as Watson detonated a massive dunk then got a basket-plus-free throw to pull the guests as close as 43-49. That's when L. Rytas woke up, though, as Nielsen and Lukauskis combined for a thunderous 8-0 run that gave the hosts a solid 51-39 lead midway through the quarter. A full-court press that L. Rytas tried after a timeout didn't help as Vukcevic banged a triple but Jomantas responded with a flashy penetration to which Petravicius added a jumper that kept L. Rtyas in charge at 55-42. Milano tried to hold on with Gallinari nailing a three-pointer but Lukauskis did the very same as the hosts seemed charmed now. New L. Rytas guard Jared Jordan enjoyed his first Euroleague minutes as the third quarter ended with the score fixed at 62-50.
Giovacchini opened the decisive quarter with a jumper and free throws as the visitors looked ready for a final push. L. Rytas kept losing the ball and missing shots and was only lucky that Shaw and Gallinari missed three free throws at 62-55. When Gallinari hit a fade-away jumper, however, the margin dropped to just 5 points before Nielsen stepped up wth a difficult basket and defended Mindaugas Katelynas well on the next attack. Nervousness prevailed as turnovers outnumbered points over almost 3 minutes, but Price finally broke the silence with a huge triple that reestablished a double-digit edge, 67-57, with 2 minutes, 30 seconds left. The finishing touch was a basket-plus-free throw by Petravicius, making it clear that L. Rytas was not giving up a home win on this night.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007