Zalgiris stunned Brose Baskets 68-82
Zalgiris Kaunas went to Bamberg and recorded a crucial 68-82 win against Brose Baskets in Group B to take control of its own destiny in the final game of the regular season. Both teams now hold a 3-6 record, but the Lithuanian champions hold a tiebreaker and all they need is a victory at home over KK Zagreb next week to clinch a Top 16 spot. Zalgiris led from start to finish as it went in front early and never allowed the home team to even tie the game. Zalgiris broke the game open with a huge run in the second quarter that got them to 18-point advantage. Sonny Weems and Mantas Kalnietis scored 14 points each, Marko Popovic added 13 and Paulius Jankunas had a big game with 10 points and 14 rebounds. Robertas Javtokas grabbed 10 rebounds along with 7 points, and Tomas Delininkaitis netted 12 while hitting 3 of 4 three-pointers. Brose Baskets struggled from behind the arc and missed their first 14 attempts and made only 3 of 20 (15%) for the game Predrag Suput scored 16 points – with 14 of them coming in the fourth quarter – to pace the German champs, Brian Roberts scored 13, Marcus Slaughter finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds and PJ Tucker had 9 points and 12 rebounds for Brose Baskets, which now needs to win its final regular season game in Athens and hope for a Zalgiris loss.
Weems scored in the paint and Jankunas made a dunk to provide visitors with a quick start to the game. Slaughter answered with a layup that opened up the scoring for the home team, but Kalnietis and Jankunas added a couple more baskets for a 2-8 Zalgiris lead and after less than three minutes and forced home coach Chris Fleming to call a timeout. After Tibor Pleiss and Jankunas traded easy layups, Brose Baskets briefly caught up with Casey Jacobsen's drive and Tucker's tip-in. Weems kept Zalgiris in front with a spectacular one-handed dunk before Anton Gavel and Popovic exchanged layups by driving to the basket past each other. Popovic added a free throw as well to give Zalgiris an 11-15 advantage. With both teams in a must-win situation, the home side looked hesitant on offense, while Zalgiris punished its opponents’ turnovers. Popovic and Mindaugas Kuzminskas made free throws and a slam-dunk by Milovan Rakovic completed 0-8 run to give Zalgiris 11-20 lead, while Tucker’s free throws made it 13-20 at the end of first quarter.
After a Tadas Klimavicius layup made it a 9-point game once again, Karsten Tadda and Jacobsen continued Brose Baskets’ struggles, each only splitting free throws. After Kalnietis made an easy layup, and Jacobsen answered driving to the basket, Klimavicius hit the first three-pointer of the game for the first double-digit lead of the night, 17-27. The three also ignited a 5-16 run by the visitors during which Delininkaitis and Weems hit back-to-back threes to make it 20-35 with exactly five minutes left in the half. After Roberts successfully drove in the lane, Weems hit another jumper and Delininkaitis made another three to make it 22-40. While Zalgiris lit it up with 4 three-pointers in the second quarter, Brose Baskets missed all 11 of their attempts behind the arc in the first half. In the final two minutes of the half, though, Suput and Roberts made sure lead did not reach 20-point mark, and Slaughter’s acrobatic basket-plus-foul and Tucker’s free throw helped the home side complete an 8-2 run that made the score 30-44 at the half.
Both teams started slow on offense in the third quarter with the only points in the first three minutes being Slaughter’s basket inside and free throws by Kalnietis. After Roberts made a reverse layup to cut the deficit to 12 points, Kalnietis answered with back-to-back threes that made it 34-52. Roberts scored on a fast break layup, but Weems then hit a wide-open three-pointer for a 19-point lead game with five minutes gone in the quarter. Gavel’s basket-plus-foul and Tucker’s free throw gave Brose Baskets and their fans a glimpse of hope, especially when Julius Jenkins followed it up with a three-pointer the first three after 14 misses for the German champions. Jacobsen added free throws to make it 45-56. Zalgiris did not respond well to the home team’s zone defense that threw them out of their rhythm, and with Slaughter and Gavel making their free throws, the lead got down to 9 points at the end of three quarter, 49-58.
Kalnietis and Suput traded basket to open the fourth quarter. Zalgiris used 4 offensive rebounds on one possession to keep a double-digit lead, and Popovic hit a huge three-pointer to make it 53-65 with six minutes to go. The inability to control defensive boards really hurt Brose Baskets as it tried with a box-and-one zone defense, even as it found a go-to-guy in Suput, who scored 7 points, including a three-pointer to make it 60-67. After a timeout, Delininkaitis hit his third shot behind the 6.75-meter line and Javtokas’s basket-plus-foul made it a 13-point game once again. DeJuan Collins made both free throws to make it 60-75 with 1:41 to go and seal the win. Suput and Roberts managed to cut the deficit to 10, but even though Zalgiris missed 3 of 6 free throws in the final minute, the lead was too big for Brose Baskets to overcome.
Thursday, December 15, 2011