In a thriller that featured 27 lead changes, Zalgiris held tight to the last one and beat visiting Montepaschi Siena 90-81 on Thursday for its first home win of the season in front of the fans in Kaunas, Lithuania. With the victory by Zalgiris, both teams were tied at 3-3 and awaiting other results to know their standing in Group B. another monster game from Tanoka Beard anchored the winners. He finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds while making a three-point play that secured the lead for Zalgiris in the end. Robert Pack followed him with 20 points, while Mindaugas Timinskis and Dainius Salenga poured in 14 each. Montepaschi, which shot just 3 for 16 on three-pointers, had 19 points from David Vanterpool, 15 from Vrbica Stefanov, 14 from Efthimios Rentzias and 10 from Mindaugas Zukauskas.
Timinskas got the game going with a three-pointer for the hosts, but Montepaschi's own Lithuanian, Zukauskas, helped erase that. He and Bootsy Thornton scored two baskets each as Montepaschi ran out to a 7-12 lead punctuated by Benjamin Eze's dunk. Zalgiris started to recover with a three-point play by Salenga. Pack tied it twice, at 14-14 and 16-16, and when Martynas Andriuskevicius blocked a shot and converted at the other end on a nice pass by Salenga, Zalgiris went ahead again, 16-14. After a timeout, Beard and Salenga extended the Zalgiris run to 11-4 and the lead to 20-14 before Montepaschi answered. Thornton at the foul line, Kakiouzis with 3 points inside and Stefanov with 3 from the arc filled an 0-8 run that put the guests ahead 20-22. Pack scored the next 4 points, however, and Beard slammed to leave Zalgiris in front, 26-24 after 10 minutes.
Despite allowing Stefanov a pair of layups, Zalgiris stayed a step ahead of the visitors early in the second quarter thanks to Beard and Vidas Ginevicius. Even when Roberto Chiacig put the guests ahead, 30-31, Ginevicius answered. But the quarter remained a back-and-forth affair. Luigi Datoma sent the guests ahead briefly again, but Timinskas fed Paulius Jankunas on an alley-oop dunk and a 34-33 Zalgiris lead. Efthimios Rentzias ended 2 scoreless moments at the foul line as Montepaschi retook the lead, but Andriuskevicius pulled it back to his side with a jump shot. It continued through 10 different lead changes in the second quarter alone, until consecutive baskets by Zukauskas and Stevanov put Montepaschi up 38-41 as the half came to a close.
A pair of baskets by Rentzias after the break established a 40-45 advantage for Montepaschi. Although Pack and Beard resisted, Vanterpool matched their two baskets and, after Zukauskas drove to the basket, added his third in as many minutes for a new high lead of 46-55. Zalgiris was slipping until Timinskas and Salenga reappeared with back-to-back triples in a 8-0 run that cut the difference to 54-55. After Rentzias interrupted with his third basket of the quarter, the Zalgiris run continued with a basket by Beard and free throws by Timinskas that regained a 59-57 lead for the hosts. The ties and lead changes resumed. Ginevicius kept Zalgiris up 62-59 with a triple, but Vanterpool had a basket-plus-foul to tie 62-62. The final minute saw Stefanov shoot the visitors ahead, Pack reply with a triple and Rentzias finish it from downtown on the buzzer, giving Montepaschi back a 65-67 edge after 30 minutes.
Ainars Bagatskis erased the psychological effect of the triple by Rentzias when he opened the final quarter with one of his own, marking the game's 21st lead change. Two more came on the next baskets, by Zukauskas and Beard, who's inside bucket made it 70-69. Bagatiskis dialled up another blast from downtown that had the hosts looking good at 73-69. But here came Montepaschi, first tying thanks to Kakiouzis and Vanterpool, then after Timinskas broke the tie, going ahead on a triple by Rentzias. Beard got all 3 back the old-fashioned way, with a basket-plus-foul in the paint, then Timinskas upped the Zalgiris edge to 80-76 with 4:45 to play. The defenses ruled for 2 minutes in which only a free throw by Vanterpool fell in. Next, Beard got loose for a big, two-handed dunk and an 82-77 lead that forced a Montepaschi timeout with 1:25 to play. After the timeout, however, Salenga popped a triple and Ginevicius made a steal leading to an 87-77 Zalgiris advantage and a chance for the home fans in Kaunas to applaud the finish.
Thursday, December 9, 2004