Marjanovic leads Zvezda to pivotal win
Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade improved to 4-3 in Group D and took another step towards the Top 16 by downing Neptunas Klaipeda 79-62 in the Serbian capital on Thursday. Zvezda grabbed its third win in four home games while Neptunas dropped to 3-4. Boban Marjanovic paced the winners with 24 points on 11-of-13 two-point shooting plus 12 rebounds. Jaka Blazic added 19 points, Luka Mitrovic had 12 while Charles Jenkins got 10 for Zvezda. Deividas Gailius led Neptunas with 19 points. Marjanovic shined early to give Zvezda a 10-3 lead. A driving layup by Blazic soon made it a double-digit game, 20-10. Zvezda led 22-14 after 10 minutes and boosted its margin to 33-18 on a fast break dunk by Mitrovic. It didn't last long, as Gailius, Edigijus Dimsa and Donatas Zavackas fueled a 0-19 run which allowed Neptunas to get a 35-37 edge at halftime. Zvezda improved its defense after the break, as Marjanovic and Jenkins fueled a 12-0 run that broke the game open, 60-43, late in the third quarter. Zvezda boosted its margin to 75-54 and never looked back. Before tip-off, an emotional minute of silence took place in memory of the late Marko Ivkovic, who lost his life prematurely last week.
First quarter: Marjanovic dominates as Zvezda jumps ahead
Marjanovic got Zvezda going with a jump hook, which Deividas Gailius matched with a jumper from close range. Luka Mitrovic scored twice around the basket for a 6-2 Zvezda advantage. Marjanovic shined with a big basket in the low post and bettered Simas Galdikas's free throw with another jump hook to boost the hosts' lead to 10-3. After Justas Sinica struck from downtown, Jaka Blazic made free throws. A driving layup by Mustafa Shakur kept Neptunas within 12-8. Blazic showed his strength with a layup, which Valdas Vasylius matched with a one-handed floater. Marcus Williams scored in penetration to restore a 6-point Zvezda lead. Marjanovic took over with a second-chance tip-in, as Neptunas kept struggling to score. Blazic shined with an off-balance driving layup that made it a double-digit game, 20-10. Charles Jenkins scored in penetration, but back-to-back layups by Vasylius got Neptunas within 22-14 after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: 0-19 run puts Neptunas ahead
Marjanovic scored around the basket early in the quarter. Galdikas matched with free throws. Blazic stepped up with a three-pointer and soon added free throws to boost the hosts' lead to 29-16. After Shakur fed Egidijus Dimsa for a layup, Maik Zirbes answered with a basket in transition and a fast break slam by Mitrovic caused Neptunas to call timeout at 33-18. Dimsa split free throws and a three-pointer by Gailius gave the guests hope at 33-22. Gailius sank another triple off a timeout and Donatas Zavackas copied him from the opposite corner to bring Neptunas within 33-28. Dimsa shined with a backdoor layup and followed Shakur's free throws with another basket to complete the guests' comeback, 33-34. Zavackas capped a 0-19 run with another three-pointer. Zvezda had been held scoreless for more than five minutes until Marjanovic sank a mid-range shot to bring the hosts within 35-37 at halftime.
Third quarter: Zvezda picks up its defense, regains lead
Marjanovic scored down low immediately after the break, as Zvezda picked up its intensity on defense. Blazic buried a catch-and-shoot three-pointer that put the hosts back ahead, 40-37. Neptunas was held scoreless for more than three minutes and a backdoor layup by Branko Lazic capped a 7-0 Zvezda run. Dimsa scored around the basket, but Blazic did better with another triple. Williams sent an inbound pass to Marjanovic for a slam, as Neptunas kept struggling against Zvezda's intense defense. Marjanovic hit a turnaround jumper. Mindaugas Girdziunas made free throws and a driving layup by Gailius caused Zvezda to call timeout at 49-43. Marjanovic dunked again and added free throws to keep Zvezda out of trouble, 53-43. Jenkins struck from downtown, collected a steal and gave his team a 15-point lead. Nikola Kalinic followed foul shots with a driving basket, but Gailius and Shakur kept Neptunas within 62-47.
Fourth quarter: Hosts wrap it up early
Zavackas hit a close shot early in the quarter, but Jenkins finished a long, two-chance Zvezda offense with a three-pointer for a 65-49 advantage. Gailius shined with an off-balance jumper and the free throw which came with it. Mitrovic sank foul shots and a driving layup by Kalinic made it a 17-point game. Mitrovic kept pacing Zvezda with a put-back layup. Gailius scored again and a dunk by Kalinic sealed the outcome, 73-54. An unstoppable Marjanovic scored down low. Vasylius hit a jumper and a layup by Arnas Butkevicius brought Neptunas within 75-58. Everything was said and done already, however, as Zvezda had cruised to a well-deserved and very important home win.
Thursday, November 27, 2014