Zalgiris put one foot in the Top 16 from complicated Group B on Wednesday with a thrilling 70-74 overtime road win against Montepaschi in Siena, Italy. Zalgiris raised its record to 7-6, tying Montepasch and AEK, all of them in third place. Dainius Salenga put Zalgiris ahead for good with a three-pointer late in overtime, then Mindaugas Timinskas sealed the victory with 4 perfect free throws in the final minute. Tanoka Beard was the anchor once again for the winners, with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Salenga added 13 points, Timinskis 11, Robert Pack and Paulius Jankunas 10 each. Carlton Myers led Siena with 16 points. Efthimios Rentzias and Vrbica Stefanov added 13 each, Bootsy Thornton 12 and Mindaugas Zukauskas 10.
Beard drilled 6 points early to show Zalgiris was read. Myers opened the scoring for Montepaschi with a triple, then Thornton blocked Pack and finished at the other end with a reverse layup to get the Siena crowd going. Salenga sank a shot from downtown to start a 0-7 reaction by Zalgiris that he also closed with a layup that put the guests ahead 8-15. By making 3 steals, Montepaschi was able to come back as Thornton scored to make it 14-15, just before Salenga lighted the night with an amazing reverse dunk from the baseline.Myers closed the first quarter with a basket-plus-free throw after driving on big Martynas Andriuskevicius, but Zalgiris still escaped with a 17-18 edge after 10 minutes.
Rentzias and Stefanov erased the Zalgiris lead and put Montepaschi ahead 21-18 to start the second quarter, but that lasted only until Ainars Bagatskis fired from the arc for the guests. Montepaschi continued to make a move as Rentzias drilled 2 layups and Stefanov a triple to boost the difference to 34-25. Zalgiris reacted with a pair of fastbreaks by Timinskas, who made a fine one-on-one move in traffic to complete a 0-8 run that put his team within 34-33. Rentzias stepped out to the arc and buried a triple, but Beard rocked the rim to end the half with the scoreboard showing a 37-35 Montepaschi advantage.
Myers began the second half with a triple, but the focus now switched to the battle in the paint. Rentzias scored 4 points in a row, but Beard and Paulius Jankunas led Zalgiris to a new lead of 46-47. Vidas Ginevicius added a triple to the visitors' lead and forced a Montepaschi timeout. Defensive big man Benjamin Eze joined the hosts on the court and started a great duel with Beard. Montepaschi now seemed able to limit the great effort of Zalgiris's frontcourt, but Salenga simply moved to the perimeter and closed the third period with an incredible triple to give the guests a 50-55 advantage.
Montepaschi tried to react with Mindaugas Zukauskas and Stefanov to start the final quarter, but again Zalgiris answered from the arc as Bagatskis faked and hit an off-balance shot from downtown. The hosts stayed close as Zukauskas also blasted a triple, then took a 59-58 lead with 2 free throws by Stefanov. Beard came back and worked for a turnaround jumper in the low post and Zalgiris switched to a 2-3 zone on defense. Eze tied at 60-60 with 3 minutes to play and then Pack fired a sweet stop-and-pop jumper for Zalgiris. Myers tied again with free throws and the game remained even after 39 minutes. The scoring pace quickened as Timinskas made it 62-63, Montepaschi took back the lead with a triple by Zukauskas, but Pack tied again with a powerful drive. He left 9 seconds on the clock, and with only 1 left, Zalgiris fouled Eze, who missed both his free throws, sending the game to overtime, 65-65.
Salenga's big triple made it the 65-68 and Pack upped the lead to 4 points with a drive. The game was still open when Thornton made a layup for 68-70 layup, but Timinskas was sure at the line, hitting twice with 31 seconds to play, and again after that to put Zalgiris on the brink of the Top 16.
Wednesday, February 2, 2005