Zalgiris edged Asseco Prokom 69-72
Zalgiris took a sole possession of second place in Turkish Airlines Euroleague Group A snatching a thrilling 69-72 victory in Gdyinia against Asseco Prokom. The game had a dramatic ending with a final 90 seconds during which the visiting side dropped a 6-point lead before Paulius Jankunas hit what turned out to be a game-winning five-meter jump shot with 13.5 seconds to go. This victory put Zalgiris on the brink of qualifying to the Top 16 for the second year in a row, while Asseco Prokom all but lost its chances to qualify for the next round. Martynas Pocius scored 13 out his 16 points in the second half to pace the winners. Travis Watson also scored 16 points, while Jankunas finished with 9. Ratko Varda scored a Euroleague career-high 25 points and also grabbed 8 rebounds for the winners, while Daniel Ewing finished with 20 points and 9 assists in a losing effort.
Mirza Begic opened the scoring with a slam and Ewing hit a close-range jumper at the other side, as both teams had a slow start offensively. Varda was successful twice and Ewing drove to the basket for an easy layup and an early 8-4 Prokom lead. What followed, though, was 0-11 run by the visitors. Tadas Klimavicius cut the lead to 2 points before Watson and Pocius scored consecutive three-point plays. A sweet runner by Dainius Salenga capped the run and gave Zalgiris an 8-15 lead after seven minutes. Varda ended Prokom’s scoring draught with a long jumper, but Jankunas and Begic made sure Zalgirs kept the 7-point margin and had 13-20 lead after 10 minutes.
The home team scored 7 unanswered points to start the second quarter. It was Varda who hit a pair of shots, in between them Ewing hit 2 free throws, and Varda hit one of two from the line to tie the game at 20-20. On the next possession, Giddens hit the first three-pointer of the game, making it a 10-1 run that gave Prokom 23-21 lead with more than seven minutes left to play in the half. Watson grabbed one of 8 first half offensive boards by the visitors and scored the first field goal of the quarter for Zalgiris, while Jankunas and DeJuan Collins followed to give the visiting side another lead, 25-28. Nevertheless, that was not the last lead change of the quarter. First, Varda and Ewing, a duo that combined for 25 of first 31 Prokom points, scored on three consecutive trips down the floor bringing the game into another tie with two minutes to go in the half, 31-31. Then Salenga answered for Zalgiris, but Mike Wilks made 1 of 2 free throws and Giddens banked an acrobatic shot to end the half, giving the home side a 34-33 lead at halftime.
Not much about the game changed in the third quarter as both teams continued at a slow pace and the turnovers continued to hurt the flow of the game. It took only few second to have Begic hit 1 of 2 free throws for another tie, 34-34. Varda scored the lone bucket by the home team in the first four minutes, while Begic and Mantas Kalnietis gave Zalgiris 36-40 advantage. Begic soon was called for his fourth personal foul and in the next three minutes there was only one bucket on each side. Then Pocius hit the first triple of the game for Zalgiris and created a 38-45 cushion. Burrell and Pocius traded long jumpers before a three-pointer by Ewing brought Prokom to life. Adam Lapeta followed up with an easy bucket, and Burrell slammed it home for another tie, 47-47. Pocius’s layup and 2 free throws by Ewing set the score at 49-49 at the end of three quarters.
Videnov scored his first points of the game on the opening possession of the fourth quarter, but both teams failed to score a single field goal during the next 180 seconds. Collins ended the three-minute drought by making a shot from behind the three-point arc giving Zalgiris another advantage, 51-53. Salenga’s free throws and a Watson fast break two-handed dunk extended that lead, but Varda continued to keep Prokom alive scoring a basket-plus-free-throw with exactly five minutes to go and then hitting a triple to cut the lead to 57-60. Ewing added a triple of his own and Varda hit a baseline jump shot, but 4 points by Watson and 2 free throws by Pocius maintained a two-possession game. Pocius added a layup as well and Zalgiris led 62-68 with 90 seconds left on the clock. Still, Videnov scored a tip-in and the same player hit a three-pointer to make it a 1-point game with 41 seconds to go. Burrell drew a charge on the next Zalgiris possession, and Ewing scored a lay-up with 18 seconds to go putting Prokom in front 69-68. After a timeout by Zalgiris head coach Aco Petrovic, Jankunas scored a jump shot from the left side to give Zalgiris another lead, 69-70. The home side had 13.5 seconds to score again and win it, but Ewing failed to score a layup in heavy traffic. Collins grabbed a defensive rebound and found Pocius on the other end of the floor for an uncontested layup that sealed the win for Zalgiris.
Thursday, December 9, 2010