Zalgiris shocked Caja Laboral 88-92
Zalgiris escaped with an 88-92 road victory over Caja Laboral to take a share of first place in Turkish Airlines Group A. The visitors dominated the glass for a 43-21 rebounding edge led by the duo of Mirza Begic and Paulius Jankunas inside. Begic shined for 18 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks for a 28 performance index rating, while Jankunas tallied 12 points and 13 boards. Marty Pocius finished with 14 points, including some clutch fourth-quarter free throws, Mantas Kalnietis also scored 14 and Travis Watson 11. Zalgiris improved to 3-1 and will share the top spot with the winner of the Thursday showdown between BC Khimki and Maccabi Electra. Zalgiris hosts Khimki next week. Laboral dropped its second straight game to fall to 2-2 with a trip to Partizan Mt:s looming next. Martin Rancik led Laboral with a career-high 24 points. Mirza Teletovic added 17 and Marcelinho Huertas had 14 in the loss.
The game saw a nice battle between both teams’ centers in the early going, as Zalgiris looked for Watson inside to punish Stanko Barac on defense. The Croatian giant responded quickly with a pair of free throws, but Laboral head coach Dusko Ivanovic felt uncomfortable with the matchup and replaced Barac with Marcus Haislip, who returned from injury, after only two minutes. The forward buried a three right after he stepped on court, followed by another one from Fernando San Emeterio for an 8-6 home lead after five minutes. Zalgiris continued to feed its frontcourt as Watson tied the game with an easy layup to keep the balance. The hosts found some breath later thanks to Teletovic and Rancik, who drew an unsportsmanlike foul plus basket on Arturas Milaknis to raise the difference to 13-8 with four minutes to go in the quarter. Huertas took over after that with 5 points in a row and a great, long fast break pass for a Pau Ribas layup that forced an urgent timeout from Zalgiris at 20-10. The guests switched to zone defense and started using Begic in the paint in an attempt to change the trend and it worked. Begic was dominant against Barac and added 7 points and cleared Kalnietis for a deep three to reduce the deficit to 22-20 entering the last minute. Another 2 free throws and a fastbreak dunk by Kalnietis capped a 2-12 run to get Zalgiris on top 22-24 at the end of the first period.
The punishment didn’t end after the break, as Begic rejected Brad Oleson’s first shot attempt and Pocius added a three-point play to extend the lead to 22-27. The hosts found Teletovic and Rancik on offense, but Tadas Klimavicius and a three-pointer by Tomas Delininkaitis allowed Zalgiris to keep a safe margin, 26-32, three minutes into the quarter. Rancik repeated from mid-range, followed by a fastbreak dunk by Oleson to get Caja Laboral a little bit closer, 30-32, but DeJuan Collins and Watson responded pretty quickly to abort the comeback midway through the second period. The hosts tried again with Teletovic and a corner three by Ribas that made it a 1-point game, forcing Zalgiris coach Aco Petrovic to use a timeout right after that. Ribas kept rocking, making a jumper that returned the lead to the hosts, 37-36. The joy didn’t last, though, as Milaknis nailed a long three for a 37-39 Zalgiris lead. The teams exchanged baskets as Teletovic hit his first three of the night and Collins banked a difficult shot to retain the lead for Zalgiris. David Logan tied the game from the free-throw line at 41-41 before Jankunas took advantage of a Ribas turnover to close the first half with Zalgiris up 41-43.
Milaknis buried another three right after the intermission to prove Zalgiris wasn’t joking and was aiming for the win, but Teletovic and Barac came to the rescue for the hosts and made it a 1-point game once again. The answer from the Zalgiris head coach was quick; Mirza Begic. The Slovenian center matched Barac again and drew a foul on him to add 2 free throws right after he took the court. The hosts reacted, though, as a triple from Rancik and a stronger defensive effort returned the lead to Caja Laboral, 50-49, on an off-the-steal fastbreak layup by Oleson midway through the third quarter. The game had turned into a battle already, especially in the paint, where Watson and Begic combined for 5 points in a row to allow Zalgiris earn a 52-54 edge. The hosts tried to improve their defense on the Zalgiris big men, but Pocius took over and collected 6 points in a row for a valuable 58-60 advantage for the visitors with less than two minutes to go in the quarter. Rancik kept supporting Caja Laboral and tied the game again at 60-60, but committed his fourth foul on the following play and had to take the bench. Delininkaitis didn’t miss from the line, followed by a nice fastbreak by Kalnietis for a 60-64 algiris edge, but a miraculous buzzer-beating trey by Huertas kept the hosts close, 63-64, at the end of the quarter.
Nemanja Bjielca went for a three to open fire in the last quarter, but Jankunas responded fast with a short jumper for another tie. San Emeterio buried a pair from the line, drawing the fourth foul from Watson, but Kalnietis hit a big three, followed by a bank shot by Begic to put Caja Laboral on ice and return the lead to Zalgiris at 68-71. The visitors dug even deeper after Jankunas capped a steal with a dunk to extend it to 5 points, forcing an urgent timeout by Laboral with six minutes to go. Teletovic and Logan returned the hope to the home crowd right after that, but Zalgiris didn’t panic and aborted the comeback with a huge triple by Delininkaitis and a dunk by Begic for a 72-78 lead with four minutes to go. Rancik, back on court, came to the rescue and hit a corner jumper over Begic, followed by a pair of free throws by Logan to make it 76-78. The hosts’ defense were very intense at that point, but Pocius beat the shot-clock with an acrobatic layup to reinforce Zalgiris’s morale. Rancik hit again, this time for a three, to raise people from the stands, but Jankunas tipped one in for a 79-82 Zalgiris lead with less than two minutes to go. Logan turned it over in the following play, allowing Begic to extend the margin to 5 points on an offensive rebound entering the last minute. Teletovic scored a quick basket to make it 81-83, but Pocius took advantage of hosts’ foul-trouble to hit twice from the line and maintain the lead. Rancik nailed a huge three to make it a 1-point game, 84-85, as the game turned into a free-throw carrousel. Pocius and Delininkaitis hit one each from the line to almost kill the game, 84-88, with 30 seconds to go, as Huertas responded from the same place right after that. Jankunas didn’t tremble and nailed another pair with 12 seconds left to keep his team calm. Even though Huertas scored again on a difficult layup, Pocius sealed the outcome for Zalgiris, 88-92, with 2 more points from the line.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Natxo Mendaza; Vitoria, Spain