Zalgiris survives late drought for vital win
Zalgiris Kaunas significantly boosted its Top 16 chances with a 65-63 victory over Anadolu Efes Istanbul on Thursday at Zalgiris Arena. The teams are now even in the Group B standings at 4-5, though Efes holds a tiebreak advantage due to its 11-point victory when the teams met in Istanbul earlier this season. Zalgiris took its biggest lead, 12 points, in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but then proceeded to score just 1 point the rest of the way. Zalgiris scored 10 straight points to set up an exciting finish, however neither team converted on their opportunities down the stretch and Zalgiris survived with the victory. Justin Dentmon paced the winners with 23 points on 6-of-11 three-point shooting. Robertas Javtokas posted 11 points and 10 rebounds and rookie Kaspars Vecvagars added 10 off the bench. Semih Erden paced Efes with 14 points and 13 rebounds and Scotty Hopson added 13 and 11 in defeat.
First quarter: After strong Zalgiris start, Efes reels off 11 unanswered points
Tadija Dragicevic scored inside for the game’s first points before Dentmon got the hosts going from downtown. Dentmon remained the focal point of the Zalgiris attack with a second basket and Vytenis Lipkevicius boosted the lead to 7-2 after an offensive rebound, foul drawn and free throws made. Hopson picked up an Erden miss, but the hosts continued a strong start with a Javtokas tip-in and another Dentmon three, 12-5. Paulius Jankunas’s spin move freed up Javtokas for a slam and a 9-point cushion, however the Zalgiris center soon took a seat with his second foul. Zoran Planinic free throws and a Dragicevic three more than halved the Zalgiris deficit. Erden banked in a hook to make it 14-12. Hopson – after missing a pair of free throws a minute earlier – converted a three-point play to cap a 0-11 run and give the visitors a 14-16 edge. Arturas Milaknis went inside to end the hosts’ scoring drought and even the score at 16-16 through 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Hot shooting late in half leaves Efes ahead
A Jamon Gordon floater and Ksistof Lavrinovic bank shot kept the score tied. After having his shot blocked, Kerem Gonlum recovered with a score off a Gordon dish. Tadas Klimavicius charged the crowd with a block of Dusko Savanovic, but the hosts failed to capitalize and soon Savanovic penetrated to put Efes up 18-22. The hosts had trouble connecting from downtown, though after a Gordon score in transition Lavrinovic hit a long two-pointer. Vecvagars made some noise with a layup-plus foul. Jankunas on the offensive glass and Martynas Pocius on free throws following a fast break carried Zalgiris back to 26-26 midway through the quarter. Kostas Vasileiadis whipped a pass to GOnlum for a tough layup plus foul. A Pocius three was ruled to be after the 24-second clock sounded, but Dentmon knocked one down on the next possession. After Erden missed twice from the line, Dentmon fed Klimavicius for a layup as the crowd roared. Hopson briefly silenced the Zalgiris fathful with a three to tie the game at 31-31, but Vecvagars answered back with a pull-up triple. After a timeout, a broken play resulted in a Vasileiadis catch-and-shoot three and Hopson sank a long jumper to give Zalgiris a 34-36 lead at the break.
Third quarter: Dentmon, Vecvagars fuel hosts’ surge
Vasileiadis rained in a three to open the second half. Zalgiris came right back through a basket-plus-foul from Javtokas and a Jankunas tip-in. A Dentmon three – his fourth1! – put the hosts in front. Hopson countered with his second triple to tie the game at 42-42. Dentmon continued to shine with a three and an assist to Javtokas to outshine Erden’s two baskets. Vasileiadis was helped off with a knee injury. Dentmon took no mercy and drained his sixth triple to make it 50-46. Erden and Javtokas traded scores inside. Dentmon extended the lead to 6 with a drive into the paint. Lipkevicus made a tough layup before Vecvagars nailed a three from the win that brought the crowd to its feet at 60-49. Savanovic revived Efes with a three-pointer. Vecvagars finished the quarter with a wild layup for a 62-52 lead.
Fourth quarter: Zalgiris survives despite long scoreless stretch
Klimavicius scored on the offensive glass to boost the hosts’ lead to 12. Gordon answered for Efes. Baskets by Savanovic and Erden trimmed the difference to 6. Even after a timeout, the Zalgiris attack remained stalled. Planinic free throws extended the run to 8 straight Efes points. Zalgiris managed to deny Efes on defense, but not completely. An Erden tip-in made it 64-62. Dentmon got to the line with 1:25 remaining, but missed 2 free throw attempts. Efes missed three shots on the ensuing possession, but forced Zalgiris into a 24-second violation. Planinic missed a go-ahead three and Jankunas dove for the rebound. Zalgiris put in its best free-throw shooters and Efes sent Dentmon to the line with 10.1 seconds remaining. This time he made the first, 65-62, but missed the second. Efes took the ball and looked for a three, but Zalgiris fouled Gordon with 7.8 seconds remaining. Gordon split free throws. Zalgiris turned over the inbounds pass, but Savanovic missed a game-winner from downtown and Zalgiris knocked the rebound away before celebrating the victory.
Thursday, December 12, 2013