Simon helps Lokomotiv hold on to top Maccabi
Lokomotiv Kuban snapped a three-game losing streak with a tough 78-76 victory over Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv on Friday. Krunoslav Simon scored 15 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter to lead Lokomotiv, which improved to 4-5 in the Top 16 and grabbed a share of fourth place in Group F alongside Bayern Munich. It was also the first win for Coach Evgeny Pashutin’s men against Maccabi in four meetings this season. Maccabi slipped to 6-3, but remains in sole possession of third place in the group. The hosts used a 10-0 run bridging the first and second quarters to take the lead and never trailed again. Maccabi closed to within a shot multiple times in the fourth quarter and David Blu had a good look at a go-ahead three with less than 10 seconds remaining, but missed. Lokomotiv outrebounded Maccabi 37-26 – including a resounding 12-2 edge on offensive rebounds. Maccabi was also doomed by 11 missed free throws – most of which came from Sofoklis Schortsanitis, who otherwise dominated inside, but Lokomotiv fouled him at will when possible. Derrick Brown scored 16 points, Mantas Kalnietis netted 10, league-leading three-point marksman Valeriy Likhodey had 9 points on 3 of 3 from downtown and Simon was one of three Lokomotiv players with at least 5 assists. Schortsanitis finished with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting plus 5 assists, but was just 4 of 11 at the line. David Blu scored 16, Ricky Hickman tallied 16 points and 5 assists, Guy Pnini scored 11 and Joe Ingles totaled 7 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in defeat.
First quarter: Strong defense helps Lokomotiv lead
Maccabi focused on getting the ball to Schortsanitis, who assisted on a Ingles layup to open the scoring and drew a foul on the second possession. Brown buried a long jumper for the hosts’ first basket. Big Sofo scored his first basket, but soon committed his second foul on a Brown basket and found himself on the bench. Without its big man, Maccabi misfired twice from outside, while Kalnietis split free throws and Anton Ponkrashov nailed a jumper to put Lokomotiv ahead 7-4. Pnini connected on the game’s first triple as Maccabi went ahead before Simas Jasaitis tied the score at 9-9. After Ingles drove for a tough layup, Aleks Maric grabbed an offensive rebound, drew a foul and sank both free throws. A splendid Devin Smith rejection of Simon at the rim kept the teams even. Simon came back with a reverse layup that gave Lokomotiv a 15-13 lead through 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Hosts dominate the boards and build double-digit lead
Marcus Williams buried a three and Simon scored on the break before Likhodey buried an open three from the corner to put Lokomotiv up 10 just two minutes into the quarter. After a Maccabi timeout, Blu’s mid0range jumper marked the visitors’ first basket in six minutes and stopped Lokomotiv’s run at 10-0. Blu soon added a three, but Maric kept Lokomotiv strong with a basket on the offensive glass. Simon fed Maric for a slam to make it 27-20 midway through the quarter. However Schortsanitis countered with a basket-plus-foul. Likhodey and Blu traded threes before Kalnietis scored his first basket for the home side. Richard Hendrix scored inside before Pnini dropped in a floater. Brown saw his jumper fall in after several bounces on the rim to make it 36-28. Kalnietis exploited a blown defensive assignment by Maccabi to sink an uncontested layup for a 38-29 halftime advantage.
Third quarter: Maccabi rallies to within a shot
Two baskets and two fouls drawn – including Maric’s fourth – by Schortsanitis led to the first 5 points of the seconds half. Ingles took a rebound and went coast to coast for a layup to close the gap to 2. Kalnietis split free throws for Lokomotiv’s first point of the quarter after some three and a half minutes. Hendrix stole the ball from Ingles and fed Brown for a slam. The big man followed with a block and a slam to restore a 7-point cushion. Pnini countered with a three to make it 43-39 midway through the quarter. Simon dished to Brown for a slam. After a timeout, Smith scored inside, but Simon banked in a shot at the other end. A Blu triple made it a 3-point game. But Simon intercepted a Tyrese Rice pass and Brown converted a missed layup into a slam. Big Sofo drew 2 more fouls, but made only 2 of 4 free throws. Simon and Rice traded drives to the basket before Brown settled the score at 53-48.
Blu drilled a three, but Simon answered. Kalnietis scored on a broken play and Maccabi lost the ball on a 5-second violation. Simon’s layup made it 59-51. Hickman drew three fouls over the course of one minute and converted 2 free throws before making a layup to close the gap to 4. Schortsanitis spun past Maric, scored and sent the Lokomotiv center to the bench with his fifth foul. Likhodey buried a three from the elbow to give Lokomotiv some extra breathing room at 63-57. Sofo fed Pnini for a bucket and Smith drove the lane to make it a 2-point game. Hendrix countered with a jumper and rejected Schortsanitis, but Sofo grabbed the ball, bowled Hendrix over and scored to make it 65-63. Soon Hickman carried Maccabi within1 with a triple. Hickman and Pnini used a tough foul to stop Hendrix from scoring, but Kalnietis came in and made the resulting free throws. Simon extended the difference to 71-66 from the line. Hickman drove for a layup and foul – Hendrix’s fourth. Simon drew Sofo’s fourth foul at the other end and sank free throws to make it a two-possession lead. Simon bettered a Schortsanitis basket with a triple. Blu and Simon traded free throws to make it 78-73 with 100 seconds to play. Hickman scored – through goaltending – on the break. Hendrix fouled out going for a loose ball and Ingles made it a 2-point game with 38 seconds remaining. A Hickman steal gave Maccabi a shot at the lead, but Blu missed a three and Lokomotiv held on for the victory.
Friday, March 7, 2014