Power Electronics Valencia edged Zalgiris 74-80
Power Electronics Valencia notched a crucial 74-80 victory over Zalgiris on Thursday at the S. Darius and S. Girenas Sport Center in Kaunas, Lithuania to keep its Quarterfinal Playoffs hopes alive. The result also eliminated Zalgiris from playoff contention. Nando De Colo and Jeremy Richardson scored 17 points each and Omar Cook tied a Top 16 record with 12 assists for the winners, who improved to 2-3 and host Fenerbahce Ulker next week in a game to decide second place in Group H. If Valencia wins by 3 or more points, it will be a quarterfinalist for the first time. Rafa Martinez added 14 points and Robertas Javtokas tallied 13 for Power Electronics. DeJuan Collins paced Zalgiris with 15 points. Paulius Jankunas added 14 and Mantas Kalinetis scored 11. Of those, 6 were on back-to-back triples in the closing moments, that ultimately were not enough for the hosts, who got within 1 point in the final 15 seconds after trailing by 9 with eight minutes to go, but were unable to complete the comeback.
Without the injured Victor Claver on hand, Valencia pushed the tempo to start the game and executed mostly on pick-and-rolls in the halfcourt game. Still, baskets were hard to come by early on, as the midway point of the first quarter was reached at a 7-7 score. Zalgiris attacked the boards, though perimeter accuracy wasn’t precisely a strength, even on second-chance looks. Rafa Martinez carried the visitors from the get-go and Javtokas started laboring inside for Valencia. The game definitely opened up after Richardson and Travis Watson traded rim-rattling dunks for an 11-11 tie. The fast-paced style seemed to favor the visitors, who attacked the heart of the Zalgiris defense, especially on Cook penetrations. It was the hosts who struck the hardest though, specifically when Jankunas slammed home a two-hander down the lane after a nice feed in stride from center Bojan Marjanovic. Still, Valencia regained the lead with a De Colo corner jumper, and the second quarter was reached at a 17-18 advantage for the visiting side.
De Colo took off in the second quarter where he had left off in the first, only a few feet further from the rim, draining a corner triple before bagging a steal and fast-break layup for his 7th consecutive point and a 19-23 Valencia lead. The guard then forced another turnover that James Ausgutine slammed home, and swished a jump shot to score it 21-27. Zalgiris tightened up defensively and worked to get Watson good post position, but was unable to stretch the defense with long-range shooting. Lacking in quantity, the home side produced quality buckets like on another power dunk by Jankunas, while asserting itself on the glass. Valencia tried to force an up-tempo game with a full-court defensive press, but the Lithuanian side countered with points off offensive rebounds and tied the game with a Kalinetis triple before Jankunas put them in front again, 31-29. Marty Pocius added a three-point play, as Zalgiris’s run extended to 10-1. Richardson put an end to it with a sweet fallaway and De Colo responded to a Tomas Delininkaitis three-pointer with a buzzer-beating runner that left matters wide open for the second half, as the break was reached at 37-35.
The hosts started the third quarter showing off their touch, as Tadas Klimavicius swished a triple, while Valencia exhibited power on a fast break dunk by Javtokas on Omar Cook’s 5th assist of the game at that point. The playmaker confirmed he could score as well, nailing a three-ball before dishing out 3 more assists, the later for another Javtokas dunk that highlighted a 0-12 run by the visitors that put them in the driver’s seat. Zalgiris fought to keep up and Jankunas and Watson finally scored consecutive close-range buckets to get the hosts to within 48-49 after Pocius hit from midrange again. A couple of strong moves by an inspired Richardson got Valencia to own a 5-point lead again, but Delininkaitis dropped a corner three and the final quarter was reached at 54-48.
With both teams trading punches in the game’s first 30 minutes and Euroleague survival on the line, the fourth quarter hinted at a close finish. Determined to take care of business in a tough atmosphere, Valencia showed it came to play and Javtokas gave the visitors their biggest lead of the game at 55-62 with a driving dunk after another Cook assist, his 10th. The hosts attacked the offensive glass repeatedly but could not convert on 5 consecutive shots under the rim and head coach Ilias Zouros was forced to call timeout after De Colo made them pay with a pull-up jumper that gave Valencia a 9-point margin with a little under 8 minutes left to play. The lead grew to double digits as Watson could not contain Javtokas, a force at both ends of the floor, and only Collins was able to give the home attack a boost with a three-pointer that scored it 60-68 with 5 minutes to go. Offenses stalled as the pressure mounted, and the bad trend continued for the Lithuanian side, unable to capitalize on its second-chance shots. Instead, Martinez gashed them with his second three-pointer of the game, setting the stage at 60-71 with just under 3 minutes left. Delininkaitis answered from beyond the arc but Cook kept the assist clinic going, beautifully feeding Martinez for a backdoor layup on the next play. Martinez had a chance to seal it with a dagger triple at the 1:25 marc but missed the spot, allowing Zalgiris to hang in there with a Pocius layup and make it a one-possession affair again after Kalinetis drained a triple, scoring it 71-74 with 46 ticks left on the clock. Savanovic then missed his first free throw before Richardson hit the second in replacement because of a cut on Savanovic’s arm. But the drama wasn’t over, as Kalinetis drained his second three-pointer in a row to make it 74-75 with 15 seconds left in the game. But Cook came up big in the final moments, swishing both his free throws and then stealing the ball on the ensuing inbounds play to feed De Colo, who iced the game from the line.
Thursday, February 24, 2011