Valencia rallies to edge UNICS in opener
Valencia Basket rallied from an 8-point deficit to take Game 1 of the 7DAYS EuroCup Semifinals 69-64 from UNICS Kazan on Tuesday at Pabellon Fuente De San Luis. The fourth quarter alone featured five lead changes and two ties before Will Thomas stepped up late to lift Valencia to victory. UNICS hosts Game 2 of the best-of-three series on Friday. Fernando San Emeterio and Mike Tobey scored 14 points apiece and Matt Thomas added 13 for Valencia, which captured its 13th consecutive EuroCup victory this season. Tobey also blocked 3 shots. Errick McCollum paced UNICS with 16 points, Melvin Ejim scored 11 and Maurice Ndour produced 8 points and 9 rebounds in defeat.
UNICS looked comfortable early with Raymar Morgan scoring twice and contributing a pair of steals in a 2-8 start. It wasn't until the 4-minute mark that San Emeterio scored Valencia's second basket of the game. However, the hosts battled back to tie the score and Aaron Doornekamp split free throws to give Valencia its first lead, 11-10, which is how the first quarter finished. After Ejim's three-pointer 2 minutes onto the second quarter was the first triple of the game for either side, Anton Ponkrashov added another. McCollum and Ndour each scored twice in a 3-9 push that extended the margin to 18-25. Sam Van Rossom and Matt Thomas connected from outside to revive Valencia and its fans. McCollum's three-point play and Alberto Abalde free throws settled the score at 28-30 at the break. San Emeterio briefly gave Valencia the lead with a three-pointer to start the second half, but UNICS scored the next three baskets. Pierria Henry penetrated for a bank shot and UNICS's largest lead of the game, 35-43, late in the quarter. Tobey and Guillem Vives got Valencia rolling again and Matt Thomas's basket-plus-foul capped an 8-1 run to bring the hosts within 1. McCollum ended the third quarter with a triple that made it 44-48. Valencia narrowed the gap and then jumped in front 53-52 with a Matt Thomas floater. The teams started to trade shots and it was tied 56-56 with 5 minutes to play. Vives stepped up with a go-ahead triple at one end and a block on the other to give Valencia a 61-60 edge with 2 minutes remaining. Will Thomas made it a two-possession game when he scored in the paint inside the final minute and the hosts made their free throws down the stretch to wrap up the win.
Will Thomas came into the game with 4:22 on the clock in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 56-56. At that point, he had just a single point beside his name, but he would become Valencia's go-to guy down the stretch. The big guy scored the next basket in the game before assisting on the go-ahead triple by Guillem Vives. Will Thomas added a pair of buckets inside the final minute to give Valencia a two-possession lead from which UNICS never recovered.
In part because of strong play on defense, both teams shot poorly in the game and UNICS, in particular, paid a price for that. The visitors shot 39.3% on three-pointers this season entering the game, but made just 4 of 21 (19.1%) in Valencia. After shooting 78.7% on free throws for the season, UNICS was 10 of 15 (66.7%) in the game. An average shooting night would have lifted UNICS, though Valencia (6 of 23 on threes, 26.1%) was not much better.
Jamar Smith's drought
In Game 2 of the quarterfinals, Jamar Smith saw his streak of consecutive EuroCup games with at least 1 three-pointer made snapped at 54 games. He was 0 for 4 from downtown in this game to mark the second time in three games he failed to connect from behind the arc.
Game 2 on Friday
UNICS hosts Game 2 of the best-of-three series on Friday. UNICS is undefeated at home this season and will try to force a Game 3 back in Valencia with a victory. Three-time champion Valencia will clinch its sixth finals appearance with a win.
Tuesday, March 19, 2019