Unicaja routed Zalgiris 86-68
Unicaja registered its first win in Top 16 Group G by downing Zalgiris 86-68 in Malaga, Spain on Wednesday night. Unicaja improved to 1-2 and is third in Group G, one win away from Asseco Prokom Gdynia, second at 2-2. Meanwhile, Zalgiris went down to 0-3 and lost most chances to make it to the Quarterfinal Playoffs due to its tie-break disadvantage against Prokom, Unicaja and Group G leader CSKA Moscow. Juan Dixon led the winners with 16 points. Robert Archibald added 15 on 7-of-8 two-pointers, Georgios Printezis had 14, Omar Cook got 13 while Carlos Jimenez contributed 10 for Unicaja. Marcus Brown and Marty Pocius each had 11 points for Zalgiris while Mirza Begic added 10. Printezis and Jimenez fueled a 15-1 run that helped Unicaja to get a 21-6 lead after 10 minutes. A 0-13 run that Brown capped with free throws got Zalgiris as close as 29-25 but an outstanding Archibald allowed Unicaja to restore a double-digit lead, 40-29, at halftime. Nothing changed after the break, as Unicaja kept a safe lead all the way until the final buzzer. A three-pointer by Dixon sealed the outcome, 71-51, allowing all Unicaja fans to celebrate that their team rejoined the Top 16 race.
Dixon got Unicaja going with a driving layup, as the hosts tried to play more aggressive from the very beginning, powering the boards to put Travis Watson into trouble. Zalgiris went scoreless in the opening 2 minutes and a five-meter jumper by Cook gave Unicaja a 4-0 lead. Zalgiris missed six consecutive shots until Watson stepped up with a dunk. Jimenez stepped up with a fast break layup but Brown and Begic got Zalgiris within 6-5. Cook kept pacing Unicaja with a stop-and-pop three-pointer and Augusto Lima scored in the low post to keep Unicaja out of trouble, 11-5. Jiri Welsch set the crowd on fire with a huge dunk on traffic that made Zalgiris call timeout at 13-5. Unicaja coach Aito Garcia Reneses kept rotating its player to improve its intensity in defense - as many as nine players had already stepped on court in the opening 7 minutes. Pocius tried to change things for the guests but a big triple by Jimenez made it a nine-point game, 15-6. Printezis followed a fast break dunk with an uncontested layup to break the game open, 19-6. A driving layup by an unstoppabe Jimenez capped a 15-1 run and gave Unicaja a 21-6 margin after 10 minutes.
Pocius took over with a three-point play early in the second quarter, as Zalgiris tried to use Mario Delas and Watson together on court for the first time. Printezis stepped up with a put-back layup and added another easy basket but a three-pointer by Pocius brought the guests within 25-12. Printezis - who else? - sank free throws and Archibald added a jump hook to keep Unicaja out of trouble at 29-12. Zalgiris slowly improved its defense while free throws by Watson and a driving layup by Salenga kept the guests within 29-16. Tadas Klimavicius took over with a fast break dunk and a corner three-pointer by Brown made Unicaja call timeout at 29-21. Begic and Brown capped an 0-13 run with free throws Dixon rescued Unicaja with a bomb from downtown, as the hosts improved their defense. Lima stepped up with a tip-in that Begic matched with a dunk. Jimenez fed Archibald for a two-handed dunk and sank a jumper to make Archibald restore a double-digit margin, 38-27. A floating layup by Mantas Kalnietis and a mid-range jumper by Archibald fixed the halftime score at 40-29.
Unicaja struggled to score immediately after the break and a jump hook by Watson got Zalgiris within 40-31. Printezis copied him, in the other end but Dainius Salenga answered from downtown to give the guests some hope at 42-34. Dixon took over with back-to-back jumpers, as Unicaja kept playing very physical in defense. Archibald got the crowd involved with a dunk, good for a 14-point Unicaja lead at 48-34. Kalnietis shined with consecutive driving layup but Cook answered from downtown and fed Dixon for an easy basket to break the game open, 53-38. Brown downed his trademark corner triple and Pocius added a layup to get Zalgiris within 53-43. Archibald scored in the paint but Begic matched it with a fast break dunk. Free throws by Pocius soon brought Zalgiris within single digits, 56-47. Unicaja did not panic, however, and improved its defense late in the third quarter. Jimenez hit free throws and Welsch added a corner three-pointer in transition. Dowdell beat the buzzer with another triple to boost the hosts' lead to 64-47 after 30 minutes.
Begic took over with a spin move in the low post, as Zalgiris tried to speed up the game tempo to return to the game. Dixon shined with a driving layuip over Begic, however, as Unicaja kept finding open shots at both corners. A put-back layup by Archibald and a corner three-pointer by Dixon sealed the outcome, 71-51, with over 6 minutes left. Zalgiris did not give up, however, as Salenga sank free throws but Printezis scored in penetration and fed Archibald for a backdoor layup - and the free throw that came with it. Cook sank a three-pointer and even when Klimavicius kept trying, he did not find much help around. Everything was said and done already, as Unicaja kept playing with great intensity and stayed focused until the final buzzer, allowing their fans to celebrate a much-needed win. Meanwhile, Zalgiris needs to bounce back right away right after the Top 16 break.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010