Unics overcomes 11-point loss, returns to the Eurocup Finals
Unics Kazan returns to the Eurocup Finals after using a huge second half from Nikos Zisis to overcome an 11-point deficit from the first leg, and beat Crvena Zvezda Telekom 84-67 in Game 2 of their semifinals series. Unics, the 2011 Eurocup titlist, won the semifinals series 136-130 on aggregate, as Zisis scored all of his 26 points after halftime. The Russian side will hold a home-court advantage in the finals, where it will play Valencia Basket. Zisis was scoreless in the first half, and Zvezda held 17-21 lead in the second quarter, which translated into a 15-point advantage in the series. But behind triples from Luke Harangody and baskets from Kostas Kaimakoglou, Unics rallied to take 36-30 halftime lead, and cut the series deficit to 5 points. After the break Zisis got hot, sinking jumpers and triples at will, and the hosts quickly broke the 11-point barrier. Unics led by as many as 65-47 late in the third quarter (117-110 on aggregate), but Marko Simonovic and Jaka Blazic each hit a pair of three-pointers to get Zvezda to 76-65 and tie the score in the series with 2 minutes to go. But Zisis hit again behind the arc, and Unics defense did the rest of the job, sending the hosts to the finals. Zisis also collected 5 assists and 4 rebounds in victory, Andrew Goudelock netted 17 with 6 assists and 4 rebounds, while Kaimakoglou had 12 points plus 8 rebounds for Unics. Boban Marjanovic paced Zvezda, scoring 12 and grabbing 11 boards, with 10 of his points coming before halftime. DeMarcus Nelson had 11 points, and Rasko Katic chipped in with 10 in defeat.
Baskets were few and far between at the start of the game. Vladimir Veremeenko opened the scoring from close range, but Zvezda did not score for more than 3 minutes before Ivan Radenovic buried a three-pointer. After Katic and Goudelock traded baskets midway through the first quarter for 5-5, teams got into an offensive rhythm. Chuck Eidson hit from long range, and Goudelock also hit a triple for the hosts and 15-11, which made it 67-74 on aggregate. But Zvezda went often to Marjanovic inside, and his monster slam over three players tied it at 15-15 to end the first quarter. Nelson had a basket-plus-foul in the second, and along with Marjanovic helped the visitors to 17-21, which translated into a 15-point series lead (69-84). Marjanovic continued to be a dominant force inside, but Unics nailed 3 consecutive triples, a pair from Harangody and one from Kaimakoglou that got the hosts to 28-23 (80-86 on aggregate). The visitors briefly switched to zone defense, and Charles Jenkins hit a jumper and a triple for Zvezda, but Kaimakoglou and Veremeenko scored inside, before Goudelock hit a long jumper to extending it to 36-30. Nelson and Radenovic cut the deficit to 2 points, but Kaimakoglou answered with a basket-plus-free throw, as Unics held 42-36 halftime lead, meaning Zvezda was up 94-99 for the series.
Unics started the third quarter in a great rhythm, with Zisis getting himself going by hitting a pair of jumpers, and Goudelock sinking a triple for 49-38, tying the score on aggregate 101-101. Zisis and Goudelock followed it with driving layups to put Unics up 15 in the game, and 4 in the series. Zvezda snapped a 9-0 run through Blazic and Nelson, but Zisis hit behind the arc for 56-41 (108-104). The visitors went inside often, and Katic brought the margin in the game back to 11 points, but Zisis remained hot with a jumper and a triple, and with Harangody's put-back Unics extended it to 65-47, leading on aggregate 117-110 entering the final minute of the third quarter. Luka Mitrovic made a put-back to wrap up the third, and in the fourth Jenkins nailed a pull-up jumper and Marko Simonovic added a three-pointer for 67-54 (119-117). Zisis answered with a three of his own, but Simonovic hit his second from downtown. Vereemenko banked in a floater, and slammed it home after a baseline drive for 74-59 (126-122) with 3 minutes to go, but Jaka Blazic buried back-to-back threes for 76-65, getting things back at the beginning of the series, 128-128 with 2 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. But Zisis replied with a corner triple, and Unics used its defense to keep Zvezda scoreless on four possessions. Meanwhile, Goudelock split free throws and Zisis made both with 20 second to go for 82-65, and 134-128 on aggregate. Marjanovic made both foul shots for Zvezda, but it was too little too late, as Unics players and fans celebrated a trip to the Eurocup finals.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014