It took 38 minutes, but Zalgiris finally swatted aside persistent Skipper Bologna 87-77 in Kaunas on Thursday despite the absence at the end of Arvydas Sabonis, due to fouls. The sharp shooting of Dainius Salenga and a stingy defense that held Skipper to just 11 points in the fourth quarter earned the win for Zalgiris, who improved to 2-1 in Group B. Skipper fell to 1-2. Sabonis was dominant in the middle for Zalgiris, but the top performer all night was Salenga, who finished with 21 points and 5 assists. abonis had 18 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks before fouling out, while Ed Cota also came up big for Zalgiris with 16 points and 6 assists. Hanno Mottola led Skipper with 21 points before fouling out and Milos Vujanic scored 18. Matjaz Smodis played courageously against Sabonis and finished with 12 points. A 9-2 Zalgiris run at the end, with 4 points by Salenga, finished off the visitors.
Skipper opened the game trying to counter the presence of Sabonis by imposing a running game. Zalgiris accepted that challenge, however, and Salenga scored a pair of early baskets. In the halfcourt offense, Hanno Mottola tried to drag Sabas out of the paint, and was initially successful. He knocked down 2 jump shots, while Sabas missed 2 triples before finally nailing one from the top of the key, giving Zalgiris a 10-7 lead. Skipper pulled to within 13-12 after Carlos Delfino robbed Salenga and went full court for a layup. Zalgiris countered with more outside shooting, as Miroslav Beric drilled his second three-pointer for an 18-14 lead. As the quarter was closing, Zalgiris had a chance to increase its lead but after a nice collaboration between Beric and Sabas, the latter misses both free throws. Nonetheless, Ed Cota's basket at the end gave Zalgiris a 22-17 lead after 10 minutes.
With Sabonis on the bench to begin the second quarter, Skipper dominated the rebounds, but Tanoka Beard was still able to earn 2 free throws to bring Zalgiris ahead by 7 points, 26-19. Skipper recovered thanks to an aggressive Vujanic and Zalgiris was forced to bring Sabas back in to replace Beard, who picked up his third foul with the score at 28-24. Gianmarco Pozzecco provided a spark for Skipper, scoring 5 points to counter Gustas's triple and Sabas's three-point play. After Timinskas fouled Delfino on a three-point attempt. the Argentinian made both freebies and Skipper was within 41-38. A Smodis triple from the corner countered a Jankunas jump shot. Skipper then took its first lead after Salenga misses a triple with 8 seconds remaining and Vujanic makes him pay for the mistake by nailing a high arching three-pointer over an outstretched Sabonis to finish the quarter. Skipper's 0-6 closing run gave the visitors a 45-46 halftime lead.
With their trio of Smodis, Mottola and Vujanic in double digits already entering the second half, Skipper looked confident. Zalgiris quickly found itself with foul trouble as Salenga picked up his third personal foul on a charging call and soon after Beard was called for his fourth. Smodis continued to give Zalgiris trouble around the basket as he was very active, causing Sabas to pick up his second personal foul, too. Soon, Sabas was called for his third personal foul and Hanno Mottola made it pay for Skipper by hitting 2 free throws. Baskets by Beric and Salenga kept Zalgiris close, however, and halfway through the quarter the score was tied, 56-56. Skipper went ahead 61-65 after Vujanic converted a three-point play, Mottola drilled a jump shot and Prado scored an easy two. Zalgiris surged back behind another Salenga basket - this one a slam dunk which made the score 64-65. Zalgiris took back the lead after Sabonis rejected Smodis and got a dunk on the other end. Sabas picked up his fourth foul but Zalgiris moved ahead on Ed Cota's free throws and led 68-66 at the end of three quarters.
After staying close and even holding several leads during the first three quarters, Skipper fell apart in the final minutes of the contest. Zalgiris took a 71-67 lead after Jankunas picked up a foul from Smodis and made one free throw. Salenga drilled a triple but Zalgiris was treading on thin ice, however, as it had 4 players with 4 personal fouls after Timinskas picked up his fourth foul. Skipper reduced the Zalgiris lead to 3-points after Vujanic scored on the break. After Beard missed a shot Skipper could not capitalize as Vujanic missed one of his own and Zalgiris strikes back by going down low to its leader Sabas, who throws in a classic half hook after getting perfect position on the low post. On the next possession Sabas' fortunes changed as he picked up a foul going after Pozzecco on the drive and Skipper is within 78-75. Salenga responded with two free throws and then Beard broke the game open on Zalgiris' next possession when he drove to the basket and got a basket plus foul on Mottola, who committed his fifth. Zalgiris was in the clear with an 82-75 lead with two minutes remaining. Skipper's last attempt to get back in the game fell short when Van Den Spiegel couldn't make a free throw after scoring a basket. Van Den Spiegel's hoop were the last points for Skipper, and Zalgiris closed the game when Ed Cota and Salenga each scored in the final minute.
Thursday, November 20, 2003