The race for the quarterfinals in Group L of the Last 16 will come down to a final week between an upstart and two time-honored names in European basketball after Lokomotiv Kuban of Russia stormed from behind to beat host Lietuvos Rytas 78-82 in Vilnius, Lithuania on Tuesday. Both teams are now tied with 3-2 records with one game left in the round, with Lokomotiv having now defeated Rytas twice. The fate of both teams will wait until Week 6 however, since Benetton Treviso (3-1 before playing Tuesday), is the opponent of Rytas next week and has beaten Lokomotiv twice. Several scenarios could solve the race, including all three teams could end up tied with 4-2 records, 2-2 against each other, in which case point-based tiebreakers could decide the outcome. In any case, the group won't be resolved until next week. Lokomotiv made sure of that by using an 11-19 third quarter run to tak over the scoreboard after having trailed Rytas by as much as 47-40. After seizing a 58-61 lead at the end of the third quarter, however, Lokomotiv surged ahead by as much as 10 points in the fourth quarter to hold off the hosts. Ali Traore was the big gun for the visitors with 18 points, while Sergey Bykov added 15 and Kelvin Rivers 12. Jeremiah Massey added a double-double of 13 points, 10 rebounds. Jonas Valanciunis had 17 points for Rytas and Ronny Seibutis 12, but none in the game's final 15 minutes. More than anything, Lokomotiv won by taking care of the ball, with just 6 turnovers to the 14 it forced on Rytas.
Seibutis took a pass from Valanciunas and got to the basket for a three-point play to open the scoring, though Massey scored Lokomotiv’s first points on the ensuing possession. After an Aleksandar Rasic triple for the hosts, Maxin Sheleketo evened the score from the line. Valanciunas put Rytas up by 4 before back-to-back threes by Vlado Ilievski and Sheleketo lifted the visitors to 12-14. The teams traded baskets for several minutes as the scoreboard flashed four ties before an Arturas Jomantas layup and Grigory Shukhovtsov free throws ended the first quarter at 21-20.Tyrese Rice’s first basket and Valanciunas's points from the line lifted Rytas ahead 27-22, but a pair of quick baskets by Bykov had Lokomotiv back within 1 in a jiffy. After Sheleketo’s second three-pointer of the game evened things at 29-29, the Rytas defense went to work and denied Lokomotiv points for more than 3 minutes during which Rasic and Mindaugas Katelynas led an 11-0 surge to put the hosts in control. K.C. Rivers scored 6 points until halftime to give Lokomotiv hope at the break, although trailing 42-36.
A three-pointer by Seibutis and a basket by Valanciunas gave Rytas its biggest lead yet, 47-40, to open the second half, but Rivers and Rodney Blakney dialled up three-pointers to bring Lokomotiv back. By the time Rivers hit his next shot from the arc, the visitors had taken over the scoreboard, 51-53. The lead changed again on a triple by Lawrence Roberts, but there were three ties and another lead change before Traore dropped his fifth basket to keep Lokomotiv in front, 58-61, after 30 minutes. Traore's next pair of shots kept Lokomotiv a step ahead until Bykov blasted a triple to give the visitors better breathing room, 64-68. Traore and Massey ruled inside for 3 more baskets to open a gaping, double-digit lead of 64-74 before Valanciunis cut Lokomotiv's 0-9 run with his own three-point play. Massey matched his dunk, however, to make it 67-76, after which Lokmotiv's defense locked in. Rytas got only 2 points over 4 minutes until Steponas Babrauskas made it 71-78 with 1:20 to play. Katelynas stepped up then with a huge three-point play to bring Rytas within 74-78 with 53 seconds left, forcing a Lokomotiv timeout. Blakney's steal denied Rytas a scoring chance before Bykov put the finishing touches from the foul line on a huge road win by Eurocup newcomer Lokomotiv Kuban.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012