Valencia rallies in Berlin to keep playoff chances alive
Valencia Basket escaped from the Mercedes-Benz Arena with a hard-fought 86-90 victory over ALBA Berlin on Friday night to stay alive in the playoff race. The visitors trailed by 18 points early in the second quarter, and still had a 10-point disadvantage entering the fourth (74-64). But Klemen Prepelic, Nikola Kalinic and Derrick Williams took over when the game went to the wire to save the day for Valencia. Prepelic set the offensive tone for the winners with 24 points - 17 in the first half - on 5-of-8 three-point shooting. Kalinic followed him with 17 points and 6 rebounds, and Williams added 15 points, Mikey Tobey tallied 12 and 7 boards and Sam Van Rossom contributed 10 points and 5 assists for Valencia, who improved to 18-15 and will face a decisive showdown against TD Systems Baskonia next week. ALBA, whose record dropped to 11-22, was led by Markus Eriksson, who scored 17 points in 22 minutes, and Simone Fontecchio, who chipped in 16.
Even though Van Rossom opened fire with a three, the hosts took advantage of consecutive turnovers by Valencia and a couple of treys by Peyton Siva and Ben Lammers to build an early 10-3 edge. The visitors adjusted better in defense but missed 7 field goals in a row that allowed ALBA to grab a 13-3 advantage after 5 minutes. Louis Labeyrie tried to break the trend with a layup but Valencia couldn’t use that to swing momentum. A corner jumper by Eriksson and back-to-back threes by Tim Schneider made it 23-11, then Eriksson joined in from deep to close the first quarter with ALBA leading 26-13. Fontecchio and Jayson Granger extended it to 31-13 soon after, and even though Valencia returned to scoring, Eriksson completed a 4-point play to keep a 35-17 margin. The visitors stayed afloat thanks to Prepelic, who showed up with 3 consecutive three-pointers and a couple of free throws that set the score at 42-30 midway through the second quarter. Kalinic followed with 4 points in a row to reduce the gap to 10 points, 46-36, but that was the closest Valencia could get before the break as ALBA kept running a smooth offense to end the first half ahead, 53-42.
A corner three by Guillem Vives brought Valencia within single-digits, 55-47, as Tobey followed with a couple of inside buckets and Williams provided a slam to make it even tighter, 58-53. The hosts tried to stop the bleeding with a timeout, but Prepelic and Williams capped a 0-10 run that made it a one-point game, 58-57. Eriksson connected from deep to prevent Valencia from completing the comeback and, when Tobey tied it at 61-61, the hosts reacted by setting a zone defense with Christ Koumadje at the center to slow Valencia down. It worked fine, as a tip-in by Koumadje, another three by Eriksson and a layup by Fontecchio returned a 70-64 edge for the home team entering the last period. Free throws by Fontecchio and a big dunk by Louis Olinde triggered the alarms for Valencia at 74-64 with 9 minutes remaining. But Prepelic showed up once again to reactivate the visitors, and Kalinic and Williams followed him to trim the deficit to 76-73. ALBA’s offense looked stuck, as only Jonas Mattisseck managed to score on a 3-12 run for Valencia that got it all square, 81-81, with less than 3 minutes to go. The teams traded points to keep the tie until Derrick Williams decided to take the reins. He first finished a fastbreak with a monster alley-oop dunk then added a three-point play to make it 86-88 with less than a minute remaining. A missed three-point attempt from Siva followed, which allowed Van Rossom to close the outcome from the line.
Even though Klemen Prepelic was a key weapon for Valencia all game long, it was Derrick Williams who finished the job in crunch time. He scored 9 of his total 15 points in the last 5 minutes, providing a monster alley-oop dunk to put his team ahead 83-85 and then adding a basket-plus-foul play to make it 86-88 in the last minute.
After a nightmare against Olympiacos Piraeus two days previously, Valencia seemed to be under the same kind of curse entering the game. They shot 3-of-14 and turned over the ball 6 times in the first period, which explained why they trailed 35-17 early in the second. But Valencia learned the lesson and managed to make up for it with a 12-26 run in the last 9 minutes to take the win in the end.
ALBA and Valencia are two of the best teams in the league when it comes to sharing the ball, and both proved it in this game. The hosts had 17 assists at halftime – a joint club record for a first half – and ended up dishing 26 at the end of the game. Valencia had 12 after 20 minutes and finished with a season-high 28 assists, tying for the club’s third-best in the competition.
ALBA will close its Turkish Airlines Euroleague season at home, as it welcomes Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade next Thursday, April 8. Valencia Basket will face a do-or-die challenge for a playoff spot when it hosts TD Systems Baskonia the same day.
Friday, April 2, 2021