Montepaschi forced a do-or-die showdown over the last Top 16 berth from Group C next week by edging Real Madrid 77-74 at home in Montepaschi in dramatic fashion on Wednesday. Montepaschi improved to 4-9 and joins a three-way tie for the decisive fifth place in the Group C with Ulker and Pau-Orthez. Montepaschi and Ulker face in a do-or-die showdown in Istanbul next week: the winner will advance to the Top 16 as both hold tie-break advantages over Pau. Meanwhile, Madrid dropped to 7-6 and will be fourth in this group no matter what. Rimantas Kaukenas exploded for the occasion with 33 points on 9-for-14 shooting and 5 steals for the winners. Vladimer Boisa added 10 points as the only other double-digit scorer for Montepaschi. Felipe Reyes posted a monster double-double of 23 points and 15 rebounds for Madrid , while Axel Hervelle added 12 points for the guests, who rallied in the final period. Hervelle had 2 free throws at 75-73 but missed his second attempt with 9.4 seconds to go. Kaukenas did not miss from the foul line and Madrid failed to tie the game in the remaining seconds.
Justin Hamilton stepped up with a short jumper in the opening 5 seconds of the game which Reyes immediately matched in the other end. Kaukenas followed Roberto Chiacig's free throws with a breakaway dunk for a 6-2 Montepaschi lead, but Madrid found a go-to guy in Reyes. He stepped up with a reverse layup, then added a short jumper to give Madrid its first lead, 6-8. Chiacig worked his way in the low post, but once again Reyes shined with a three-point play. Kaukenas answered with a corner three to tie at again at 11-11 after 4 minutes. Hervelle, Reyes, Kaukenas and Chiacig made free throws to keep a 15-15 tie, but the guests found severe foul troubles once Rakocevic picked his third foul . Kaukenas took over with consecutive layups and then added a driving basket to give Montepaschi a 21-18 edge. Marcelo Nicola hit a jumper and an unstoppable Kaukenas added a fastbreak layup for a 25-18 Montepaschi lead after 10 minutes.
Montepaschi improved its defense early in the second quarter, while a put-back layup by Jamel Thomas kept the hosts ahead, 27-20. Kaukenas - who else? - fired in a big three from the top of the key and Vladimer Boisa copied him from downtown to make it a 12-point game, 33-21, after a 14-3 run. Reyes returned to the floor and immediately added a tip-in and added a free throw soon after that, his 14th point tonight. Thomas and Hector Garcia exchanged triples, and Marko Tomas hit another from downtown to make it a four-point game, 36-32. Montepaschi did not panic and switched to zone defense, while a layup by Ben Eze and another three by Kaukenas boosted the hosts' lead to 41-32. Garcia nailed his second three and even when Hervelle shined with a put-back layup, Thomas dunked it coming off the baseline for a 45-38 Montepasch lead at halftime.
Shaun Stonerook fired in a three right after the break to restore a double-digit lead for Montepaschi, 48-38. It didn't last long, as free throws by Marko Tomas started to change things. Reyes shined with a three-point play while Oscar Garcia fed Tomas for an fastbreak layup. Reyes capped a 0-11 run which a jumper which put Madrid in charge, 48-49. Montepaschi went scoreless for 3 minutes until Hamilton followed a three with free throws in a 16-0 which Mindaugas Zukauskas and Boisa highlighted with respective bombs from downtown. Hamilton and Kaukenas added back-to-back fastbreak layups to make it a 15-point game, 64-49. Mickael Gelabale and Hervelle came to the rescue with consecutive baskets, but Boisa hit a jumper to push the hosts' lead to 66-54 at the end of the third quarter.
Kaukenas and Boisa combined for 4 quick points to extend Montepaschi's lead to 70-56. Hervelle and Igor Rakocevic combined for 3 of 4 free throws, but Madrid needed much more than that. Kaukenas kept pacing Montepaschi, while Madrid kept struggling to score even when a 2-3 zone defense kept the guests alive. Hervelle stepped up with a put-back basket, igniting a 0-8 run in which Rakocevic's free throws brought the guests within 71-67 with 4 minutes to go. Madrid had the momentum now, as Edu Hernandez-Sonseca hit a short jumper and Rakocevic added a driving layup for a 72-71 Madrid deficit already in the final minute. A carousel of free throws came next, in which Thomas and Kaukenas combined for 3 of 4 foul shots for a 75-71 Montepaschi lead with 14 seconds left. Mous Sonko did not miss for Madrid, but Hervelle made just 1 of 2 with 9.4 seconds to go. Kaukenas was next in the line and made two to give Montepaschi a 77-74, as Madrid could not tie the game in its final possession.
Wednesday, February 1, 2006