Crvena Zvezda got closer it to the ULEB Cup quarterfinals for the second consecutive season by beating BC Khimki 89-77 in an empty Pionir Arena in Belgrade, Serbia on Tuesday in the opener of their two-game eighthfinals series. In order to advance, C. Zvezda must avoid losing by the same 12 point or more when the series ends in Russia next week. Playing in a cold atmosphere, as Pionir was without fans due to a recent sanction, didn't bother regular season MVP and scoring champ Milan Gurovic at all. Gurovic led the winners with 34 points, including 13 of 15 free throws, and canned a buzzer-beating triple to finish the game adding important points. Antonio Burks added 22 points off the bench for the winners, while Petar Popovic put up 14, making 6 of 8 two-pointers. Oscar Torres had 18 points for Khimki, Melvin Booker added 17, Maciej Lampe had 15 while Vladimir Veremeenko grabbed 11 rebounds. Burks shined in the second quarter to give C. Zvezda a 45-36 lead at halftime. Gurovic, who scored 23 after halftiem, fired the hosts to a 16-point lead, 63-47, at one point. Khimki managed to trim that to 80-73, before Gurovic scored 7 points in the final 70 seconds, including the buzzer-beating triple that might be remembered later.
Pero Antic of C. Zvezda opened fire with a bomb in Pionir Arena, which was empty due to a closed-door sanction against the hosts. Melvin Booker and Kelly McCarty got going to put the guests ahead 3-4, but Igor Milosevic scored another three-pointer for hosts. Gurovic joined him with points from the line before Booker, with his first triple, gave Khimki a new lead, 10-12. That was the end of the guests' 2-8 run, however. Gurovic tied it up and soon drove for a dunk to give C. Zvezda an 18-16 lead. Burks capped the hosts' 10-4 blast with points from the line, then Ademola Okulaja ended it with a shot from downtown. Burks made a jumper to set the score after 10 minutes at 22-19. Burks also scored first in the second quarter and teammate Tadija Dragicevic joined him to push C. Zvezda ahead 30-24. Vladimir Veremeenko answered for Khimki with a triple and Lampe with free throws that cut the gap to 30-29. Popovic and Burks combined to C. Zvezda another five-points lead in minute 16 while Booker and McCarty tried to cut into that margin. When Gurovic and Torres traded baskets, however, the hosts still led 40-35. Mirko Kovac with jumper and Gurovic from downtown gave C. Zvezda the push it needed to take its biggest lead yet, 45-36, at the end of first half. Burks had 14 points for the hosts by then and Gurovic 11.
The regular season MVP and scoring champ had just been warming up. Gurovic blasted a new triple to put his team's lead into double digits, 48-38, early in the third quarter. He soon added another three-pointer as the C. Zvezda lead hit 11 points, but Booker answered with his second such shot for Khimki. While Booker was waiting for his teamates to help, Gurovic continued to terrorize Khimki's defense. Torres managed to tie 4 straight points together, but Kovac erased most of them with a shot from the arc, and with baskets by Gurovic and Antic, C. Zvezda now had a 7-2 run and a 61-47 advantage. Khimki needed a timeout. After the break, Burks continued the run with another basket, before Okulaja stopped the visitors' slide with layup. Torres added a three-point basket-plus-free throw and the score was 63-52. Gurovic and Burks struck back before the quarter could end with C. Zvezda still fully in charge, 70-58 after 30 minutes. Torres joined Booker to combine on a 0-5 Khimki spurt to start the fourth quarter. Veremeenko contributed a dunk for the guests to hold the difference at 7 points, 72-65. C. Zvezda went looking for the biggest possible winning margin now and inched ahead by 78-67 in minute 35, but Lampe and Torres cut it again with 4 fast points. Popovic stepped up now and matched those 4 points for C. Zvezda before the scorers on both teams went inexplicably silent for more than 2 minutes. Not surprisingly, Gurovic ended the drought, but Lampe also scored from downtown to reduce the difference to single digits, 84-76, in the final minute. Cheered by reporters and officials in empty arena, Gurovic scored his last three-pointer on the buzzer to up C. Zvezda's final margin to 89-77.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007