The showdown for the lead in Group F has shown one thing for sure: Whoever wants to make it to the Final Four in Bologna will first have to knock over the reigning champs from that city, Kinder. Ural Great, the visitors on Thursday, could not do so as Kinder led early and never looked back en route to a 72-61 victory. The win puts Kinder first in the group at 2-0, while Ural falls to 1-1 with Real Madrid, a winner earlier Thursday at Efes Pilsen (0-2). Kinder stormed to a 31-10 lead after one quarter and it was all the Russian visitors could do to push the deficit back down to single digits on a couple occasions in the second half. David Andersen, who played so well that coach Ettore Messina did not have to call on Rashard Griffith, led Kinder with 18 points. Marko Jaric added 15 and Matjaz Smodis 13 for the winners. Ural got 21 points from Panagiotis Liadelis, 12 from Mikhail Mikhailov and 10 from Anthony Bowie, but the vaunted Kinder perimeter defense held Ruslan Avleev, the visitors' leading scorer and the Top 16 MVP for Week 1, to just 6 points and 2 rebounds.
Kinder started with great concentration, playing great defence on Ural's drives inside. On its own offensive end, Kinder preferred the inside option of getting the ball to Andersen in the low post. Andersen scored 6 points and Alessandro Frosini added 2, but most of all Kinder put great intensity into its defense. Avleev found his first basket after 3 minutes, but by that time Kinder led 8-2. And the run lengthened as Kinder escaped to 16-4. Steals, rebounds and fastbreaks led to great shooting percentages for Kinder throughout the quarter. That made the difference. Ginobili, Marko Jaric and Matjaz Smodis hit threes, and Ural's defense was not prepared when Kinder decided to drive. Kinder's lead grew and grew until it reached 31-10 after 10 minutes, with Liadelis being the only Ural player to that point able to get a few points.
The offenses stopped functioning in the second quarter. Despite some good open attempts, Kinder scored only 2 points in the first 6 minutes, but Ural Great didn't do much better, scoring 6 to get the deficit down to 33-16. Kinder denied any ball to Avleev in the low post by switching on all back picks. Ural started double-teaming on Andersen and Kinder was caught with some turnovers that opened the fastbreak for Liadelis. Ural had the chance to make real headway after having come within 37-23, but Anthony Bowie missed a three-pointer that would have cut it further. Kinder managed a total of just 8 points for the whole quarter, while Ural Great hung on to Liadelis' one-on-one plays. The Ural guard finished the quarter with a pair of free throws, but that still left the visitors down 39-25 and looking at 14 points to make up after halftime.
To start the second half, as it had the first, Kinder gave the ball to Andersen, and the young center almost single-handedly forged his own scoring run, making shots both from the low post and from the field. With that, Kinder ran away to another huge lead, 19 points at 51-32. It looked all but over, particularly in regard to Ural's offense. But then the visitors started opening up the court on offense and closing all drives to Kinder on defense. Liadelis took the chance to exploit isolations against Antoine Rigaudeau and Alessandro Abbio. By the time Bowie scored 4 consecutive points, Ural had an 0-10 run on its hands and a defecit chopped back to single digits. Kinder had Ginobili completely out of the game with fouls and Ural hung on to its Liadelis to close the quarter down by just 7 points, 53-46.
Jaric took Kinder by the hand in the last quarter. He drove twice and found a couple of free throws to safeguard the lead. But Ural moved the ball well, while Kinder had difficulties guarding Liadelis and Bowie one-on-one. Ginobili was benched again with 4 fouls, and Ural had another chance to get back into the game. Daineko missed the triple that could have cut the deficit to 6. Kinder not only kept the lead but was able to add to it with an Abbio three-pointer that put the locals back in the comfort zone of double digits, at 64-54. Kinder kept the advantage high until the end and, as a result, are sitting pretty atop Group F as a result.
Thursday, March 7, 2002