On a record-breaking night for one of its players, Zalgiris joined a knot of four teams in the middle of Group A by blowing away red-hot Union Olimpija 91-72 on Thursday in Kaunas, Lithuania. Marcus Brown led the winners with 28 points that vaulted him to the top of the Euroleague's all-time scoring list, with 2,063 points. With a jump shot soon after halftime, Brown surpassed Luis Scola, who had been first with 2,054 points. The outcome left both Zalgiris and Olimpija with 2-2 records, part of a four-way tie for third place in the group. Brown's explosive scoring on either side halftime put Zalgiris in charge with double-digit leads that the hosts refused to give up easily after that. To his scoring barrage, Brown added 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals. Dainius Salenga and DeJuan Collins added 17 points each for the winners and Jonas Maciulis 12. Collins also dished 8 assists. Marko Milic scored 14 of his team-high 21 points in the first quarter for Olimpija and also pulled 11 rebounds. Ronell Taylor followed him with 18 points and Maurice Bailey with 13.
Olimpija started with confidence as Mirza Begic blocked the first Zalgiris layup attempt, while Milic and Taylor drove inside for layups and a quick 0-4 advantage. That woke up the hosts, who responded by tying on a long jumper by Paulius Jankunas and free throws by Collins. Milic provided a highlight with a two-handed breakaway dunk, worth as much as the next mid-range jumper by Collins. Brown got going by hitting a corner jumper and assisting Jankunas on a fastbreak dunk. Brown then nailed a triple before Maciulis also dunked, forcing Olimpija's first timeout. The visitors tightened up their defense and used 5 unanswered points shared by Milic and Bailey to close within 19-17. Goran Jurak hit 1 of 2 free throws for Zalgiris before Taylor and Milic, the latter with 14 points already, scored inside. Brown got his rhythm too, however, and finished the first quarter with a jumper that put Zalgiris ahead at 25-22.
Bailey's coast-to-coast layup to start the second quarter was answered by Marko Popovic drilling a triple to extend the Zalgiris lead to 28-22. Milic remained unstoppable, however, scoring back-to-back baskets to keep Olimpija close enough that Sas Doncic's easy layup off a steal returned the lead back to the visitors at 28-30. Bailey and Jasmin Hukic added back-to-back bombs from the downtown for Olimpija, but Dainius Salenga and Collins bettered them by combining for 8 points. After strong defense by Zalgiris forced Olimpija into a shot-clock violation, Brown got the lead back for the hosts with a basket that made it 37-36. Collins, with nice penetration, and Maciulis, with a difficult fadeaway jumper, boosted the margin. Brown continued the Zalgiris assault as he drove for a basket-plus-free throw and shot the lights out with long three-pointer on the very next possession. Olimpija struggled to score until Milic broke the dry spell, but Salenga saved the last word of the first half - a baseline jumper and a fastbreak layup that meant a double-diogit 54-42 advantage for Zalgiris at halftime.
Olimpija struggled to start the second half, taking another shot-clock violation, while Brown hit the jumper that made him the Euroleague's all-time top scorer. That didn't slowed down the veteran, as he drilled from downtown on his next try. Jankunas added a put-back basket and an open mid-range jumper as the Zalgiris defense did its job, too, and the advantage climbed. When a wide-open Maciulis buried his next shot from the arc, the difference was 68-49. A turnover by Collins was converted into a spectacular dunk by Taylor. Hazan Rizvic hit from under the basket after fake move and Taylor added difficult three-pointer as Olimpija started to come back. The visitors' outside shooting started to pay off as Bailey nailed a triple and Hukic added a free throw as the third quarter closed with a 70-59 scoreboard.
Popovic started the final quarter with a baseline drive that Rzivic matched with a layup. Maciulis hit a jumper off the dribble, but Milic and Bailey got the next 3 points from the line for Olimpija. Zalgiris, angered at an intentional foul call that sent Popovic to the bench, responded with back-to-back triples by Salenga and Brown that charged up the crowd. Olimpija called for a timeout after which Taylor got a layup and Bailey a jumper before Salenga hit free throws. Taylor found enough free space under the Zalgiris basket to make another put-back, but Olimpija couldn't unlock the rim from the outside, even on open shots. Meanwhile, Collins grabbed an offensive rebound and dished an excellent assist to Salenga, whose subsequent in-your-face dunk on the baseline told the crowd all it needed to know. Collins played the final note with another dunk before the buzzer that announced a second Group A victory for hosts, 91-72.
Thursday, November 15, 2007