Cibona remained in the thick of the battle to reach the Top 16 in difficult Group B by edging DKV Joventut 77-74 at the Drazen Petrovic Basketball Center in Zagreb, Croatia on Wednesday night. Cibona improved to 6-7, which puts it in a tie for the fourth place in the group at the end of the day. The Croatian champions will make the Top 16 if they beat Lottomatica Roma in the final game of the regular season next week. Meanwhile, DKV Joventut dropped to 7-6 and is third in the standings. Joventut had already qualified for the next roundand this loss allows Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv to get closer to finishing second in Group B, as it needs to win any of its two remaining games to clinch that spot. Davor Kus led the winners with 23 points, Chris Warren added 19 and Andrew Wisniewski 14 despite playing with a muscular injury. Rudy Fernandez led Joventut with 16 points and 7 steals. Robert Archibald added 14 points and 9 rebounds while Lubos Barton had 11 points for the guests. Kus had 20 points in the opening half, as he and Wisniewski led Cibona to a 50-35 lead at the break. It didn't last long, however, as Barton and Fernandez fueled a 4-24 run which gave Cibona a 54-57 edge late in the third quarter. The game went down to the wire, as Joventut led 69-73 with 2 minutes to go. Kus and Warren fired in key three-pointers in a 8-1 final run which Luksa Andric capped with the most important free throws of his young and promising career.
Kus got Cibona going with a driving basket, but Fernandez answered from downtown to give Joventut an early 2-3 edge. Warren buried a corner triple, igniting an 11-0 run in which Kus had 5 points and that Wisniewski capped with another three-pointer, forcing Joventut to call timeout at 13-3. Barton stepped up with an easy basket, but Fernandez scored 5 quick points to get Joventut within 13-10. Cibona remained scoreless for 3 minutes, during which Ricky Rubio collected a steal and scored right after stepping on the court for the first time. Barton capped an 0-11 run with a fast break layup that helped the visitors regain the lead, 13-14. Cibona called timeout and found a go-to guy in Kus. He hit free throws and followed Wisniewski's three-pointer with an electric driving layup. Brent Wright hit free throws, but Paco Vazquez buried one from downtown. More free throws by Wright, Warren, Fernandez and a three-pointer from Marijan Mance fixed the score at 28-19 after 10 minutes.
Cibona committed three quick fouls in the opening 40 seconds of the second quarter, while Fernandez fired in his third triple to get Joventut within 28-22. Kus rescued Cibona with a jumper coming off a screen, but the hosts entered the foul bonus really early. Archibald scored inside and soon added a three-point play, while Rubio scored off another steal to cause Cibona to call timeout at 30-29. Kus hit a five-meter shot that Rubio erased with an outstanding reverse layup. Warren nailed one from downtown and Mance copied him soon after that to give Cibona some air at 38-31. Marcelinho Huertas shined with a fast break layup that Wright matched with an off-balanced jumper. Kus took over with a fast break layup and a three-pointer, making Joventut call timeout at 45-33. Charles Gaines and Mance exchanged baskets, but a three-point play by Wisniewski gave Cibona a 50-35 margin at halftime.
Barton ignited a Joventut comeback at the start of the second half with a short jumper, and Fernandez added a fast break dunk. Elmer Bennett stepped up with consecutive jumpers before Rubio collected his fourth steal and fed Barton for an alley-oop layup, causing Cibona to call timeout at 50-45. The hosts continued to struggle to score, while Rubio buried a jumper to cap a 0-12 opening run. Wisniewski scored in transition, but Fernandez matched it with a fast break layup. Martin Bader scored his first points on free throws, but Huertas answered with a driving basket and Gaines added a put-back layup to bring the guests within 54-53. Drew Sullivan took over with a wild alley-oop dunk, which even the Cibona fans needed to acknowledge. Huertas scored in transition, as Cibona kept missing shots until Warren hit a mid-range jumper. Sullivan made a free throw and fed Gaines for a big dunk, but Wisniewski buried a triple to get Cibona within 59-60 after 30 minutes.
Joventut found its go-to guy in Archibald, who scored twice in the paint early in the final period. Warren and Bader rescued Cibona with free throws to get their team within 62-64. Barton buried one from downtown to give Joventut a 62-67 edge with seven minutes to go. Warren brought Cibona back to life with a three-pointer, but Bennett and Sullivan made foul shots to keep the guests ahead, 65-70. Cibona called a much-needed timeout, after which Wright scored inside and Warren added a fast break basket to bring the hosts within 1 with two minutes to go. Archibald finished a third-chance Joventut offense with a layup-plus-foul, but Kus answered from downtown for a 72-73 score. Barton missed an off-balanced shot and Warren capitalized by firing in a critical triple for a 75-73 Cibona edge with 24.4 seconds remaining. Archibald made 1-of-2 free throws, but Andric hit two for Cibona with 9.8 seconds to go. Cibona opted to foul on Vazquez, who missed twice from the line, allowing Cibona to add a key win.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007