Zalgiris, over Unicaja 89-84
Zalgiris stayed alive in the fight to reach the Quarterfinal Playoffs in Top 16 Group G for at least one more week by edging Unicaja 89-84 in Kaunas, Lithuania on Thursday night. Zalgiris and Unicaja now tie for third place in Group G, each with a 1-3 record. Both teams, however, are two wins below CSKA Moscow and Asseco Prokom Gdynia, each at 3-1, with as many games left to play. Marty Pocius and Dianius Salenga paced the winners each with 17 points. Aleksandar Capin added 14, Tadas Klimavicius had 12 while Travis Watson got 10 for Zalgiris. Robert Archibald led Unicaja with 17 points. Joel Freeland added 16, Zab Dowdell and Omar Cook each had 12 while Berni Rodriguez got 11 for Unicaja. A 14-2 run that Arturas Milaknis capped with a jumper allowed Zalgiris to get its first double-digit lead, 26-16. Zalgiris controlled the game throughout the first half and kept a 59-47 edge midway through the third quarter. Dodwdell, Freeland and Cook fueled the guests' comeback, allowing Unicaja to get a 76-79 edge. Free throws by Archibald helped Unicaja to tie the game for the last time, 84-84. Unicaja went scoreless in the final minute while free throws by Klimavicius and Capin helped Zalgiris to seal its first Top 16 win this season.
Watson got Zalgiris going with free throws, as the hosts tried to power the boards since the opening tip. Archibald scored in the low post and Cook added a layup in transition. Unicaja placed Rodriguez in its starting lineup to stop Marcus Brown but Zalgiris kept finding other options in offense. Salenga sank a jumper and Mantas Kalnietis added an acrobatic layup for a 8-6 lead. Georgios Printezis stepped up with a floating layup that Salenga matched with a turnaround jumper. Archibald kept pacing Unicaja with a power layup and a jump hook by Freeland gave the guests their first lead, 10-12. Zalgiris kept running its offense through Salenga and a driving layup by Brown restored a 14-12 Zalgiris edge. Freeland silenced the crowd with a two-handed dunk that Klimavicius matched with free throws. Zalgiris kept controlling the boards and a corner three-pointer by Pocius gave his team a 20-14 lead. Watson capped an 8-0 run with an easy layup that made Unicaja call timeout at 22-14. Freeland rescued Unicaja with a layup that Watson erased with a tip-in. A step-back jumper by Milaknis boosted the hosts' lead to double-digits, 26-16, but a corner triple by Carlos Jimenez fixed the score at 26-19 after 10 minutes.
Archibald sank free throws early in the second quarter, as Unicaja now used a small lineup with Jimenez at power forward. Aleksandar Capin found space for an uncontested driving layup that Jiri Welsch matched with a jump hook. Watson fed Pocius for a high-flying three-point play that Jimenez erased with his second bomb from downtown. Archibald singlehandedly took Zalgiris into the foul bonus but a red hot Pocius downed back-to-back triples - one from each corner - to make it an 11-point game, 37-26. Unicaja called timeout and tried to get the foul line often but a layup by Watson capped an 8-0 Zalgiris run. Jimenez hit free throws but Salenga answered from downtown to give Zalgiris a 42-28 margin. Saul Blanco scored in penetration and Cook gave Unicaja some hope at 42-32. Archibald soon added a three-point play, as the guests stopped Zalgiris with a 3-2 zone defense. Cook fed Freeland for a layup that Mirza Begic bettered with a dunk-and-foul. Dowdell nailed a five-meter jumper off the dribble and Freeland added a put-back layup to keep Unicaja as close as 47-41. Salenga quickly answered with a triple to keep Zalgiris out of trouble, 50-41, at halftime.
Brown struck from downtown immediately after the break but Archibald banked in a jump hook for a 53-43 Unicaja deficit. Klimavicius shined with a second-chance layup, as Zalgiris kept powering the offensive board with a very athletic lineup. Rodriguez sank foul shots and added an alleyoop layup but a put-back basket by Watson and a fast break dunk by Kalnietis kept Zalgiris way ahead, 59-47. Freeland stepped up with a turnaround jumper and a driving layup, as Zalgiris faced foul trouble with Watson and Begic already with 3 apiece. The hosts lacked ball circulation a jumper by Dowdell got Unicaja within 59-53. Capin rescued Zalgiris with a driving layup, as Unicaja tried twin point guards with Dowdell and Cook together on court. Printezis scored in penetration and Dowdell added a layup off an unbelievable steal for a 61-57 Unicaja deficit, making the hosts call timeout. Pocius shined with a driving layup and Salenga added a three-point play to give Zalgiris some fresh air at 66-59. Pocius scored again but Dowdell followed an outstanding four-point play with free throws to get Unicaja within 68-65 after 30 minutes.
Zalgiris tried to speed up the game tempo early in the fourth quarter and Brown sent the crowd to their feet with a three-pointer. Archibald shined with a big basket in the low post and Cook struck from downtown to make it a one-point game, 71-70. Zalgiris kept committing turnovers and could not get Watson and Klimavicius involved. Meanwhile, free throws by Cook completed the guests' comeback, 71-72, with over 7 minutes left. Capin buried a three-pointer and soon added free throws but a red hot Cook and foul shots by Archibald put Unicaja back head, 76-77. Zalgiris tried to improve its ball circulation with Capin and Kalnietis together on court. Rodriguez stepped up with a fast break layup that Capin bettered with a triple for a 79-79 tie with 4 minutes left. Klimavicius split free throws and added a layup in transition but a three-pointer by Rodriguez tied it again, 82-82, with under 2 minutes to go. Kalnietis took over with a driving layup that Archibald matched with free throws. Klimavicius was next to go to the line to put Zalgiris ahead, 86-84, with 1:08 to go. Cook missed a driving layup and Capin sank free throws for a 88-84 score with 51.5 seconds left. A turnover made Unicaja ran out of chances, as Klimavicius sealed the outcome with more foul shots, allowing all Zalgiris fans to celebrate their team's first Top 16 win this season.
Thursday, February 25, 2010