Caja Laboral topped Cibona 102-90
Caja Laboral made a miracle leap into the playoffs by rallying from 14 points behind with 3 minutes left to tie and then defeat Cibona Zagreb 102-90 in overtime and thereby qualify for the playoffs from Group H. Caja Laboral finished tied for second place with Khimki Moscow Region, with both teams having beat the other by 11 points. The third tie-breaker, overall difference in the group, didn't seem in play as Khimki was ending the unbeaten run of group winner Olympiacos with game-long double-digit leads while Caja Laboral fell behind 58-72 to Cibona late in the fourth quarter. A 17-2 run over the next 2 minutes made it a new game, and then Marcelinho Huertas missed the first of a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left to force overtime. Once in the five-minute extra period. Caja Laboral was unstoppable, pouring in 25 points - the third most in a single OT in Euroleague history - to win by 12 despite tipping in Cibona's last shot accidentally. Mirza Teletovic led the Caja Laboral comeback and finished with 25 points. Fernando San Emeterio fueled the OT surge and had 19, while Marcelo Huertas filled in the rest with 16. Walter Herrmann and Stanko Barac added 10 points each for the winners, Barac 11 rebounds. Cibona, which made a heroic effort but looked very tired late, got 23 points from Marko Tomas. Vedran Vukusic hit 4 triples on his way to 20 points, while Samo Udrih and Jamont Gordon scored 13 each. Gordon approached a triple double with 8 rebounds and 8 assists, but his jumper that missed at the end of regulation time left the door open for Caja Laboral to advance.
Nervousness was evident after the opening tipoff by missed shots from both teams before Teletovic made surewith a baseline dunk, then showed his versatility by burying a triple from the top. Udrih responded quickly for Cibona, also from long range, but Barac and Carl English joined the Caja Laboral scoring as the hosts went up 9-3. Gordon got going with a stop-and-pop jumper before assisting Luksa Andric for a layup that got the guests within 9-7. Tomas did the honors of grabbing Cibona's first lead, 9-10, with a triple, but San Emeterio took it back for Caja Laboral with a loose ball layup that ended the visitors' 0-7 run. After a timeout, Cibona tried a zone defense that the hosts picked apart with passes until Barac from the top of the lane and San Emeterio from downtown boosted the Caja Laboral lead to 16-10. Tomas and Marcelinho Huertas traded short jumpers. Coming out of another timeout, Cibona upped its intensity as Vukusic scored before Gordan stole and hit a layup at 18-16. This time, Udrih did the honors from the arc, for another 0-7 run and a new 18-19 Cibona advantage after 10 minutes.
Vukusic boomed his own triple from downtown to lift Cibona ahead 18-22 on the second quarter's first shot. After Lior Eliyahu answered inside, another Cibona sub, Robert Troha, launched from the opposite wing to make it 20-25. Andric added a free throw to the lead before Eliyahu hit another of his sweet one-handers and Brad Oleson spotted up for a three-pointer to make it 25-26. Cibona took a timeout, and kept struggling to get decent shots, but Dalibor Bagaric gave the guests a lift with a block at one end and a hook shot at the other. Then Tomas fed Vukusic, who was alone and uncorked another triple. When Caja Laboral missed again, back came Udrih hitting another bomb from deep. Although he missed the free throw that came with it, Cibona was suddenly in charge at 25-34. Caja Laboral called timeout to solve the Cibona defense, and did so as San Emeterio hit free throws, Teletovic downed a three-pointer and Barac a lane jumper to cut the difference to 32-37 at halftime.
Although San Emeterio got Caja Laboral as close as 34-37 on the first basket after the break, Cibona was having none of it. Leon Radosevic answered inside for the guests before Tomas struck from downtown again - not once, but twice - for another Cibona surge to a 36-45 advantage. When Andric hit the next layup, Cibona had the game's first double-digit lead, 36-47, but the real story continued to be the visitors' defense. Cibona held Caja Laboral scoreless for the next 4 minutes as Andric's next basket made it 36-49. Free throws by San Emeterio were Caja Laboral's only points for a total of 6 minutes before Barac made a tenacious put-back and Huertas downed a fastbreak layup to lower the difference to single digits, 42-50. Gordon, in the role of facilitator, picked up Cibona with a great assist to Bagaric for a dunk. San Emeterio got loose for a layup before Teletovic blasted an open three-pointer, but Tomas got just as open and shot just as well to keep Cibona ahead 49-55 after 30 minutes.
Vukusic returned to light a fire under Cibona in the fourth quarter. His first shot from the arc sure sure, and after free throws by Teletovic, his second, from way downtown, restored a double-digit lead, 51-61. Now, offensive rebounds started going Cibona's way, with Andric putting back one and then Tomas another, but well above the arc, as the visitors went up 53-66. Caja Laboral needed a timeout, after which Ribas scored in close and Teletovic did the same, trimming the difference back to single digits, 57-66. Gordon stopped what looked like sure layup with a monster block on Oleson then hit free throws at the other end to make it 57-68 with under 5 minutes left. The next block was by Bagaric, and when Udrih split Caja Laboral's defense for a layup-plus-free throw, it was 57-71 and looking grim for the hosts and their fans. But the hosts had a second win. Teletovic got a free throw and a pick-and-roll layup to fall, then his next basket came with a free throw, which he made, lowering the difference to 9 points, 63-71. Cibona tried a timeout, but a pair of turnovers led to a Huertas layup and a big triple by Walter Herrmann that suddenly had the scoreboard showing 68-72 with just under 2 minutes left. Gordon and Teletovic exchanged free throws before another turnover and timeout, out of which Caja Laboral found English open for a triple that made it 73-74 with 1:25 to play. Cibona was shaken now, and when Radosevic missed 2 free throws, Huertas spun in the lane for the go-ahead basket, 75-74, entering the final minute. An intentional foul again put Radosevic on the line, and again he missed both. But the possession went to Cibona, and the ball this time to Tomas, who made 2 of 2 free throws for a 75-76 lead with 43 seconds left. Huertas answered, and the lead changed again with one of his patented floaters. Cibona broke the press, however, and Radosevic dunked for another lead change at 77-78. With 12.5 seconds left, Huertas was fouled, but missed the first of his foul shots for a 78-78 tie as Gordon's intended game-winner from the arc was short.
The huge momentum change carried into OT, which started with San Emeterio hitting a pair of triples around a basket by Huertas to make it 86-80. Tomas reacted with free throws for Cibona, then rebounded to feed Gordon for a layup at 86-84. When Herrmann downed a baseline jumper, Gordon hit a great reverse in response. When Eliyahu added a two-pointer, Tomas answered with free throws at 90-88. But Cibona's responses stopped then as Huertas and Herrmann upped the advantage to 94-88. A mathematical drama ensued as Herrmann added another basket and English went coast to coast for a reverse at 99-88. The win was Caja Laboral's, but when Huertas then drilled a triple at 102-88, all eyes were on Russia, too, where Khimki had to win by 7 more points more than Caja Laboral won by in order to qualify. An incredible own basket for Cibona on Tomas's miss at the end of the game ended it with Caja Laboral scoring a 102-90 victory. When, minutes later, Khimki won by only 13, Caja Laboral had saved second place and a playoff spot from the jaws of elimination.
Thursday, March 11, 2010