You can count Adecco Asvel among the teams throwing their hats back into the ring of competitors for the Top 16 after the French champs outlasted Partizan Mobtel 104-103 in overtime at home in Villeurbanne on Thursday. Asvel's victory lifted it to 5-8 and a sixth-place tie in Group C with Idea Slask Wroclaw. Asvel travels to play Real Madrid (6-7) in the last regular season game, and with a win there, could conceivably finish fifth. Even if it ends up sixth, Asvel will retain a shot at the last, wild-card Top 16 berth through tiebreakers across all three groups. With 72 fouls called in the game and 91 free throws launched, Asvel can point to slightly better shooting from the line (82.6% to 71.1%) as its lifesaver. Davor Marcelic contributed to that efficiency by making 9 of 10 free throws. He and Stevin Smith led 7 Asvel scorers in double figures with 18 points. Robert Gulyas added 17, Sacha Giffa 15, Vasco Evtimov and Harold Mrazek 11 each, and David Frigout 10 for the winners. All were needed to withstand a 27-point performance by Euroleague scoring leader Milos Vujanic of Partizan. He was backed up with 17 points from Dusan Kecman, 15 from Djuro Ostojic, and 11 each from Nenad Krstic and Frederick House. The loss dropped Partizan to 4-9 and elimination, though its chances were mathematically slim going into the game.
Coming from the bench and playing only 6 minutes, 20 seconds, Krtsic had his third foul with a minute still remaining in the first quarter. That, in part, explained Partizan's early scoring problems in the paint, a 17 to 8 advantage for Asvel's big men. Asvel shot 7 for 11 overall in the quarter and a parfect 10 for 10 behind the free throw line. Partizan could only hit 7 for 16 from the field, but despite the misses, managed to stay within 25-51 after 10 minutes.
Partizan came back on the court with a 6-0 run in barely 2 minutes of the second quarter. Kecman had 5 of those points on his way to 11 for the half. But Asvel continued to push inside, with Gulyas and Giffa scoring the next 6 points for their team. That gave some spacing to the shooters, and Mrazek and Marcelic obliged by hitting a three-pointer each, giving Asvel a 37-32 lead with 3 minutes to go. Despite his third foul, Vujanic get 4 of his 10 first-half points in the last 70 seconds. Just as it had in the first quarter, Partizan made the best of less-then-stellar shooting by taking the lead, 39-40, going into the half.
Partizan started the second half with Vujanic on the bench and Krstic getting the ball to score 4 quick points. Asvel still pushed inside with 4 points by Gulyas. The home team's zone defense now forced a turnover and a miss on Partizan, allowing Asvel to take back the lead of the game, 47-48, in the 23rd minute. Partizan coach Dusan Vujosevic had to call back Vujanic to the court to give his team some scoring rhythm. Partizan soon took another three-point advantage, but then Giffa scored a pair of free throws and a three-pointer in succession to pull Asvel within 52-54. Evtimov followed with a basket-plus-foul, while Marcelic added 6 of his points in the quarter. It amounted to a 14-5 run, with all Partizan's points coming at the foul line. After Partizan had a timeout and changed to a zone defense, House nailed a triple to cut the deficit to 4 points, 66-62. Krstic and Canak were in foul trouble with 4 each for Partizan and when 30 minutes had finished, Asvel was holding a 66-61 advantage.
At the beginning of the fourth, the refs called every contact and Partizan had four players with four fouls with 7:30 remaining on the clock. Asvel spent its time behind the free throw line but Partizan refused to relinquish more than a six-point gap. Frigout chose that moment to score 5 points in a row while drawing Krstic's fifth foul. Then he grabbed an offensive rebound on which Canak made his fifth too. The refs even called an unsportsmanship foul on this one, allowing Frigout to score his eighth point of the quarter and his team to keep the ball. But despite 4 players fouled out, Belgrad was still in the game in the last 5 minutes because of Vujanic. The Euroleague's top points ace hit a huge three with 15 seconds on the clock, then fouled Mrazek, who made both his free throws. In a tactical error, Smith failed to catch and foul Vujanic, who made Asvel pay with another triple that sent the teams to overtime tied 89-89.
Partizan, with four players fouled out and three more in foul trouble, watched as Smith made amends with a pair of three-pointers to start OT. But Vujanic was still on the court. He and Ostojic would tie the game 101-101 with 1 minute, 20 seconds left in the extra period. Mrazek hit the big shot for Asvel, a three off a great fake that made it 104-101 with 45 seconds left. Vujanic brought Partizan back to within one then Smith made an offensive foul and the guests had a last shot to win, two in fact, but neither fell and Avel lived to fight another day.
Thursday, February 6, 2003