Union Olimpija registered its first win of its Euroleague season in Group B by beating Zalgiris 78-83 in Kaunas, Lithuania, on Thursday night. Both teams tie in Group B standings with a 1-2 record. Olimpija dominated the game from the start, and even when Zalgiris rallied late, the guests kept a safe lead until the final buzzer. As total of seven different Olimpija players made three-pointers in a first-half shooting exhibition that boosted the visitors to victory. Marino Bazdaric led the winners with 19 points, including back-to-back triples to keep Zalgiris behind in the last quarter. Vladimer Boisa added 15 points, Saso Ozbolt 14, Dusan Bocevski 12 and Mairjan Mance 11 for Olimpija. Dainius Salenga had 19 points for Zalgiris. Robert Pack added 18 points and 5 assists, Tanoka Beard registered a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds while Vidas Ginevicius had 12 points and 6 assists.
Mance and Dusan Bocevski had already scored for Olimpija before Beard got the first basket for Zalgiris after several times. When Andres Rodriguez landed the game's first triple, Olimpija was up 4-7, a lead it would not relinquish easily. Boise added four consecutive points to make it 6-11. When Beard dunked to get Zalgiris within 11-13, Boisa and Bocevski buried back-to-back three-pointers to put the guests back in front, 13-19. Two scoreless minutes passed before Saso Ozbolt got to the line with 5.4 seconds left, making both free throws to extend the Olimpija advantage to 13-21 after 10 minutes.
The bad news for Zalgiris was not an eight-point deficit, but that Olimpija had only begun to shoot. Bazdaric opened the second quarter with a triple that boosted the lead to double-digits, 13-24. He, Boisa and Smiljan Pavic scored in close to extend it further before Mance ended a 4-12 run with a triple to make it 17-33. A pair of Zalgiris free throws later, Mance struck again from the arc. Salenga tried to keep his team close, but Boisa and Bazdaric were back sharing three baskets as the Olimpija lead climbed to 23-42. After a quiet couple minutes, Ozbolt pushed the lead over 20 points with his first triple, the first of four in row that the two teams split. The half ended with Vilmantas Dilys hitting layup for Zalgiris to set the scoreboard at 31-48.
Zalgiris started cutting into the difference right after halftime, when Salenga and Pack drilled triples around a layup by Beard that pulled the hosts within 39-50. After an exchange of baskets, it was still an 11-point difference, 43-54, when Bocevski went out to the arc and drilled his second three-pointer. Defenses took over for another couple minutes, after which each team answered the other two points at a time, but Olimpija stayed ahead by as much as 14 pionts, 49-63. Only a quarter-ending triple by Ginevicius kept Zalgiris's hopes up at 52-63 after 30 minutes.
Those hopes strengthened as Salenga and Beard combined on 6 consecutive points early in the fourth quarter to trim the differance to 58-65. Again, however, Bazdaric was ready with a shot from the arc to keep Olimpija safe. A minute later, when he lined up his third triple and canned it, Olimpija seemed to be in the clear at 58-71. Zalgiris had other ideas, like the next 7 points, capped by the third three-pointer of Ginevicius. Ozbolt now boosted Olimpija with 5 consecutive points. After Zalgiris scored 8 of the next 10 points, however, drawing within 73-78 during the next-to-last minute, Ozbold was needed again. He landed a jumper, was fouled, and added the free throw for 73-81. A final triple by Salenga got Zalgiris as close as 78-82, but Olimpija had already wrapped up its first victory.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Antanas Pakula, Kaunas