Laboral Kutxa shooting spree beats host Unicaja, 79-93
With an impressive display of outside shooting, Laboral Kutxa Vitoria rallied from a double-digit first-half deficit to defeat Spanish rival Unicaja Malaga 79-93 on the road to open their Top 16 Group E schedule on Thursday. Laboral made 15 of 24 three-point shots, marking the highest total in its Top 16 history and matching the second-highest by the club in any Euroleague phase. Unicaja had led 24-13 after one quarter, but Laboral quickly started making long shots and piled up 60 points in the second half to make sure the victory headed back to Vitoria. Andres Nocioni hit 4 of 4 from downtown to lead the winners with 20 points and 9 rebounds. Fernando San Emeterio and Lamont Hamilton added 13 points each while Walter Hodge had 10 and Thomas Huertel 9 with 8 assists. For Unicaja, Zoran Dragic poured in 22 points, Earl Calloway 17, Mindaugas Kuzminskas 13 and Vladimir Stimac 10.
First quarter: Calloway sends Unicaja in front
Kuzminskas got the first basket of the Top 16 for Unicaja, a layup, while Huertel did so on a dunk for Laboral. Calloway doubled his fun with back-to-back layups, the second off a steal to make it 6-2 for the hosts. Fabien Causeur drilled a triple to bring Laboral closer, but Dragic copied him for the hosts and Calloway added his own plus another two-pointer to make it 14-7. Hamilton's second inside basket and Nocioni's first helped Laboral get closer, but Kuzminskas was just as active with 4 points himself. Then Ryan Toolson and Granger came off the bench with a 6-0 run to close the quarter for the game's first double-digit lead, 24-13, after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Nocioni, Laboral even it up
Laboral tightened its defense and opened the second quarter with a 1-7 run sparked by Walter Hodge's three-pointer. After his layup made it 27-22, Calloway re-appeared with a layup. Laboral center Tibor Pleiss, whose participation was in doubt due to an injury, entered and scored the only basket for 2 minutes before Dragic answered with a driving basket at 29-24. Laboral kept up its comeback with layups by Nocioni and Huertel sandwiched around one by Vladimir Stimac. Nocioni completed the comeback with an open triple for a 31-31 tie, but Nik Caner-Medley restored Unicaja's lead with a long jumper. Hamilton matched that with free throw before Granger's jumper held up for the hosts' two-point difference, 35-33, at halftime.
Third quarter: San Emeterio, Manoldi light Laboral's fire
San Emeterio opened the second half nailing a wing triple that gave Unicaja its first lead of the game. Stimac responded immediately from the paint, but Pleiss got a second-chance basket to put Laboral back in front and San Emeterio struck again from downtown to make it 37-41. When Nocioni was left open to hit a triple from the same wing, Laboral had a 37-44 lead off a 2-11 run and Unicaja needed a timeout. Toolson's turnaround bank shot came as relief for the hosts, but a high hook by Pleiss matched him. Kuzminskas was ready with an inbounds triple for Unicaja, but Causeur did the same at the other end. When Huertel busted a transition triple, it was suddenly 42-52 for Laboral. Kuzminskas and Nocioni traded baskets before free throws from San Emeterio. Calloway returned to drive for a layup-plus-free throw. A hook shot by Kuzminskas lowered the difference to 49-56, but Leo Manoldi responded with a triple for Laboral. A minute later, he did it again to restore Laboral's double-digit lead, but Carlos Suarez trimmed it with a buzzer-beating triple for Unicaja at 56-63 at the end of three quarters.
Fourth quarter: Nocioni holds off Unicaja rally
David Jelinek opened the fourth quarter with a breakaway layup for the visitors that Dragic matched with free throws. Hodge was left open for Laboral's 11th three-pointer and a new double-digit difference, 58-68. Hamilton kept up Laboral's hot shooting while its perimeter defense limited Unicaja to rushed shots. A three-point play by Adam Hanga gave Laboral a high lead of 59-73. After a Unicaja timeout, Zoric measured off back-to-back three-pointers and a second-chance layup to suddenly make it a game again, 67-73, with 6 minutes left. Hanga's next layup ended Unicaja's run and Nocioni came off a screen for a triple to make it 68-78. Zoric hit free throws and drew a charge, then Caner-Medley fed Stimac as Unicaja drew within 72-78. Great ball movement by Laboral left San Emeterio open for another triple that Stimac answered with a put-back. When Calloway hit a transition triple at 77-81, the Malaga crowd was out of its seats, but Hamilton doing the same for Laboral sat them back down. Stimac's put-back was negated by free throws from Nocioni, now with under 2 minutes left. Huertel made 2 of 2 also, putting the win out of reach for the hosts and sending Laboral home to Vitoria with an ultra-valuable road win to start the Top 16.
Thursday, January 2, 2014