Lietuvos Rytas had a pleasant return to the Euroleague after a one-year absence by downing Armani Jeans 76-83 in Milano, Italy in Group B on Thursday night. L. Rytas, that travelled without star forward Chuck Eidson, joined a four-way tie atop the Group B standings and hosts Maccabi Elite next week. Meanwhile, AJ Milano and visits Efes Pilsen in Istanbul, Turkey next Wednesday. Marijonas Petravicius paced the winners with 28 points on 10-of-12 two-pointers and 8 rebounds. Hollis Price added 15 points while Mindaugas Lukauskis added 13, including two critical triples down the stretch for L. Rytas. Reece Gaines led Milano with 22 points on 5-of-6 three-pointers. Massimo Bulleri added 13 while Dusan Vukcevic and Ansu Sesay each had 11 for the hosts. Petravicius and Matt Nielsen were unstoppable in the paint throughout the opening half, helping L. Rytas a 29-44 lead at the break. Gaines helped Milano to get within 73-77 with a minute to go, but Lukauskis buried a key three-pointer that sealed the outcome.
L. Rytas owned the floor almost from the start as Petravicius scored 4 quick points that gave the guests a 5-6 advantage. Milano's defensive problems showed early as a long-range shot by Price and easy paths to the basket for Lukauskis and Arturas Jomantas sent L. Rytas ahead 7-13. Milano's head coach of just two days, Attilio Caja, needed his first timeout. Little changed, however as Milano failed to protect the paint, and L. Rytas took advantage by repeatedly finding Nielsen and Petravicius alone near the rim. The visitors were just as intense on the defensive end, too, as Petravicius registered a big block that Martynas Gecevicius took the other way for a fastbreak three-pointer that pushed L. Rytas ahead by double digits, 14-26, after 10 minutes.
L. Rytas continued to roll in the second quarter as Kenan Bajramovic came in and resumed the scoring pace with a layup. Price and Petravicius scored next to push the lead to 14 points, 18-32, and when Nielsen hit a hook shot and Kenan Barjamovic was left to dunk alone in the post, Milano needed another timeout. L. Rytas continued running its plays without any pressure, and when Gecevicius and Mindaugas Lukauskis landed a three-pointer each, L. Rytas had taken full control at 24-42. Dusan Vukcevic tried to change things with free throws while Bulleri buried a corner triple to make L. Rytas call timeout at 29-42. Petravicius shined with a reverse layup that fixed the halftime score at 29-44. Incredibly enough, Milano had just one assist in the opening half.
Milano tried to return to the game early in the third quarter, as Sesay nailed a mid-range jumper and soon followed a triple from the right wing to get the hosts going, 34-44. Lukauskis rescued L. Rytas withh free throws, as the guests readjusted its defense. Meanwhile, Price shined with a driving layup that restored a 14-point L. Rytas lead, 34-48. Gaines stepped up with a triple off the dribble and Sesay added a turnaround jumper but the ever-present Petravicius and Nielsen helped the guests to keep a 39-52 edge. Milano kept trading baskets now, as Vukcevic scored in penetration but Barjamovic answered with an acrobatic layup, good for a 42-55 L. Rytas margin. Sesay kept pacing Milano with a corner triple but Petravicius stepped up with a power layup. Milano improved its aggressivity in defense, but Gaines stroke twice from downtown to give his team some hope, 51-59. Free throws by Petravicius gave L. Rytas a double-digit lead, 51-61, after 30 minutes.
Gadson provided a highlight with an off-balanced layup-plus-foul, as L. Rytas failed to find its rhythm in offense. Petravicius, however, stepped up with more free throws but a red hot Gaines hit another triple that made it a six-point game, 57-63. Lukauskis answered from downtown but Milano kept its momentum going, with stronger man-to-man defense. Sesay hit a free throw and Vukcevic buried a corner triple that got the crowd involved, 61-67. L. Rytas was not done, however, as Price fed Bajramovic for an uncontested triple. Vukcevic insisted with a driving basket but Price buried a three-pointer that restored a double-digit L. Rytas lead, 63-73, with 4 minutes to go. Bulleri and Watson made free throws, as L. Rytas started to use long possessions already. Petravicius grabbed a loose ball and put it in to seal his outstanding perfomance, 67-75. Price hit foul shots and but Gaines took over with a dunk-and-foul and Watson added foul shots for a 73-77 Milano deficit with 59.8 seconds to go. Lukauskis sealed the outcome with a critical three-pointer that allowed L. Rytas to return home with a resounding road win.
Thursday, October 25, 2007