A last-second thriller was lived in Ljubljana when Partizan escaped with a road win by 70-71 at Union Olimpija on Wednesday night. After scoring four triples in the last quarter, Partizan managed to jump ahead by 68-69, but free throws by Teemu Rannikko left things at 70-69 with seven seconds to go. However, in a final play, Dusan Kecman found the space for a jumper that gave Partizan the final lead, as Rannikko could do nothing with a desperate last shot. The win lifts Partizan to a 3-2 record, while Union Olimpija drops to 1-4. Vonteego Cummings led Partizan scorers with 18 points, Predrag Drobnjak added 14 plus 10 boards, Kosta Perovic had 13 and Luka Bogdanovic 10. For Olimpija, Rannikko led the way with 26 points with 4 of 7 triples, and Ivica Jurkovic and Manuchar Markoishvili posted 12 apiece. It was also the first game played by Ender Arslan this season with Olimpija after injury, while Saulius Kuzminskas also of Olimpija had to leave the court on a stretcher in minute 26 due to an injury.
The start of the game was very physical, as each basket was worth a lot of effort by each team. Predrag Drobnjak and Marko Milic exchanged the first points of the night, as Partizan's offense moved the ball fast to get rid of Union Olimpija's defense, when Kosta Perovic had a nifty move in the paint to slam the ball. Manuchar Markoishvili replied fast for a 5-4 Olimpija edge, and Teemu Rannikko's steal allowed for a fastbreak that put the hosts in command, 7-4. Partizan's zone defense forced Olimpija to look for distant shots, and Rannikko obliged with the first three of the night between baskets by Dusan Kecman and Perovic for a 10-10 tie. Partizan's timeout arrived when Markoishvili dunked and the mood of the game changed with the stands pushing hard for Olimpija. The lead improved to 16-10 when Markoishvili found a bank shot, and Partizan was rushing the offense too much, leading to turnovers. Vonteego Cummings free throws and a new basket by Drobnjak put Partizan as close as 16-15 but Saulius Kuzminkas closed the first period with a free throw, 17-15.
Petar Bozic and Nikola Pekovic found baskets for Partizan, and after that, Ender Arslan and Luka Bogdanovic traded threes for a fast 22-24. Defenses started to position themselves again, but Ivica Jurkovic nailed a new three to put Olimpija ahead once more. The hosts were forced again and again to look four outside options, while Partizan played aggressive in offense getting, at least, personal fouls in the paint. With this strategy, Partizan forced an Olimpija timeout after Drobnjak's basket for 25-28. Defenses didn't allow for points now as Vonteego Cummings broke a 2-minute period with no points, but Jurkovic replied with a bomb to enter the last minute of the quarter at 30-30. A last technical foul called on Bozic, allowed Rannikko to score two free throws as the game went into the halftime break with a 32-31 Olimpija edge.
After a couple of missed shots by each team, Rannikko finally inaugurated the second half score from beyond the arc for Olimpija, and when he assisted Hasan Rizvic for a fastbreak dunk, the score was 37-31 and the crowd went nuts. Perovic scored for Partizan almost 3 minutes into the quarter, but Rannikko was on fire and he drove to lift a layup while on the other end, Rizvic blocked a shot by Uros Tripkovic and Markoishvili finished it off with a clean jumper that forced a Partizan timeout at 41-33. It was Drobnjak who, with a triple, shook Olimpija's defense and sparked a 0-7 run to make it 41-40. At the same time, Kzminskas suffered a serious injury under the rim in the same play, and after a few minutes he had to leave the court on a stretcher escorted by the medical services. As the game resumed, Rannikko blasted back-to-back triples for 47-40, and after a steal, Markoishvili finished the play with a layup for a 49-40. Perovc and Novica Velickovic gave some air to Partizan after a timeout, but in the last minute of the period Jurkovic hit another three for Olimpija that set the stage for the decisive period with a 53-44 on the scoreboard for the hosts.
Free throws by Drobnjak arrived to open the score in the last quarter, and soon an Olimpija turnover allowed Bogdanovic to trim the deficit for Partizan to 53-48. Jurkovic and Cummings traded triples but the defense of Partizan didn't allow the hosts to move the ball at ease. Meanwhile, on the other end, Drobnjak blasted a triple to make it a 1-point game, 56-55, and the guests' defense was on full throttle collecting steals while in offense, Cummings had another three-pointer for a Partizan 56-58 lead. The guests counted their baskets by triples when Bogdanovic scored a new one for a 56-61 lead and a 3-13 run, which went to 56-63 with a new Perovic layup. Time was running out for Olimpija, but Partizan had already found good dynamics and Olimpija missed long shots. Cummings and Rannikko exchanged free throws on each side for 64-69, and crucial steals by Markoishvili allowed Arslan first and Rannikko laster to hit easy layups for a 68-69 Partizan lead with 31 seconds to go. In the following play, Rannikko had a steal and was fouled by Milenko Tepic. He scored both free throws for a 70-69 Olimpija lead, but in the final 7 seconds, Kecman found time to hit a clean jumper that put Partizan ahead again, 70-71. Rannikko took the last shot for Olimpija, but the ball wouldn't go in, leaving the crowd in Ljubljana without prize, and Partizan with a new win.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006