Union Olimpija kept its Top 16 dream alive in Group B by beating direct rival Zalgiris Kaunas 86-73 at home in Ljubljana on Thursday. Olimpija lifted its record to 4-6 in Group B, while Zalgiris dropped to 5-5 and part of a four-way tie for third place. Marino Bazdaric led the winners with 29 points while drilling 7 of 11 three-point shots, including 4 in the pivotal third quarter. Olimpija held the Euroleague's top rebounder, Tanoka Beard, to just 4 boards while making 12 of 24 triples on the night. Vladimer Boisa added 22 points and 8 rebounds for the winners, while Saso Ozbolt had 16 points. Beard led Zalgiris with 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting. Darjus Lavrinovic added a double-double, 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Mindaugas Timinskas had 14 points, all in the second half.
Marijan Mance opened the score with a five-meter jumper, and Boisa added free throws for a 5-0 Olimpija lead. Zalgiris found it hard to move on offense, while Andres Rodriguez fed Boisa to make it 7-0. Beard finally drilled a turnaround jumper for Zalgiris, but an inspired Boisa immediately answered with a corner three-pinter for a 10-2 Olimpija advantage. A three-point play by Lavrinovic, followed by an easy basket by Beard, brought Zalgiris back within 10-7. Olimpija struggled now against Zalgiris's man-to-man defense, while local center Dusan Bocevski headed to the bench with 3 fouls. Even with that, Boisa scored near the basket to make it 12-9, but Zalgiris fired back with a 2-6 run in which Beard scored twice for a 15-15 tie. Olimpija finished strong, however, with free throws by Boisa, a bank shot by Bazdaric and Dragisa Drobnjak's jump hook supplying a 21-15 lead after 10 minutes.
Bazdaric opened fire with a bomb from downtown to start the second quarter, while Boisa hit free throws to boost the lead into double digits, 25-15. Beard came to the rescue with a power basket for Zalgiris, as both teams hustled for every loose ball. Ozbolt slashed to the basket and Bazdaric dunked on a fastbreak as Olimpija now shined in both ends. Lavrinovic tried to change things with a dunk, as he, Beard and Jankunas had combined on all 22 points for Zalgiris, whose shooters were off-target. Olimpija called timeout at 29-22 after having gone scoreless for almost 3 minutes, but Simonas Serapinas drilled Zalgiris' first three-pointer to cap a 0-9 run, but McLinton answered with a floating layup for a 31-26 Olimpija lead. Boisa stepped up with a tip-in, but Jankunas free throws made it a two-point play at 35-33. Badzaric drilled another triple, but Jankunas and Dainius Salenga brought the guests within 38-36 at halftime.
The third quarter started just as the second, as Bazdaric fired his third three-pointer and Boisa added a layup for a 43-36 lead. Timinskas scored his first basket, a three from the top of the key, and Salenga added a coast-to-coast dunk to bring Zalgiris within 43-41, but Bazdaric was now on fire. He made another bomb from downtown, but Lavrinovic immediately matched that to keep Zalgiris close, 46-44. The scoring pace had already increased and Olimpija got advantage of it. Ozbolt scored in penetration and Bazdaric - who else? - drilled yet another three for a 51-44 margin. Lavrinovic kept Zalgiris going with back-to-back baskets while Salenga added a tough basket to bring the guests with 53-50. Bazdaric fired in his fourth three in this period, but Timinskas matched that in the other end. Rodriguez joined the three-point festival igniting a 9-1 run in the final minute in which Ozbolt had 4 points, including a buzzer-beating layup for a 65-54 Olimpija lead after 30 minutes.
Zalgiris needed to come back quick in the final quarter, and Beard followed Salenga's running layup with a three-point play to make it 67-59. The guests played now with Timinskas at point guard, but continued committing turnovers that prevented a rally. Ozbolt buried a shot from the arc to keep Olimpija out of trouble, then Zalgiris suffered bad shot selection on hurried possessions. Ozbolt made the play of the night with a great pass to Bocevski for a layup, forcing a Zalgiris timeout at 74-61. Nothing worked for the guests. Boisa sank a three-pointer and Bazdaric a fastbreak layup for a 79-66 margin with 3 minutes to go. Bazdaric sealed the outcome with his seventh three-pointer, as Olimpija served notice that it was back in the Top 16 race.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Ziga Bojc, Ljubljana