BC Khimki Moscow Region celebrated its first trip to the Euroleague Top 16 in club history by downing Armani Jeans Milano 79-63 in Russia on Thursday. Khimki improved to 6-3 and will be third in this group at the end of the regular season due to its tie-break disadvantage against Panathinaikos and Real Madrid, that tie for first place at 7-2. Khimki had qualified to the Top 16 yesterday, when Asseco Prokom Gdynia lost on the road against Panathinaikos. AJ Milano dropped to 3-6 and ties for fourth place with Prokom. Milano has the tie-break advantage, so it will reach the Top 16 if it beats Madrid next week or Prokom loses at home against Khimki. Keith Langford paced the winners with 18 points. Carlos Cabezas added 14 while Paulius Jankunas had 13 for Khimki. Mason Rocca had 17 points for Milano while Massimo Bulleri added 14. A three-pointer by Marco Mordente gave Milano a 19-20 lead after 10 minutes. Rocca and Morris Finley shined in the second quarter to keep the guests in the game, 39-38, at halftime. Khimki found a go-to guy in Jankunas late in the third quarter and free throws by Raul Lopez boosted his team's lead to 59-48 after 30 minutes. Jankunas and Lopez helped Khimki to make it a 17-point game, 67-50, enough for the hosts to celebrate an important home win.
Kelly McCarty got Khimki going with a three-pointer from the top of the key, as Milano tried to open the court with Stefano Mancinelli as its starting power forward. Langford also struck from downtown for a 6-0 lead. Rocca sank his trademark hook shot that Cabezas matched with a turnaround jumper. Mancinelli hit a closer jumper and a long shot by Finley got Milano within 8-6. Khimki failed to get Robertas Javtokas and Jankunas involved, as Milano slowly improved its defense. Rocca kept pacing the guests with a put-back basket and Mike Hall added an acrobatic jumper to give Milano its first lead, 8-10, after an 0-8 run. Langford downed a six-meter shot and a put-back layup by Javtokas put Khimki back ahead, 12-10. Milano, now with Mancinelli at small forward to guard McCarty, excelled in defense. Free throws by Rocca and a big three-pointer by Hall restored a 12-15 AJ lead. Javtokas and a red hot Hall traded baskets but a driving layup by Lopez kept Khimki as close as 16-17. Vitaliy Fridzon and Mordente exchanged triples to fix the score at 19-20 after 10 minutes.
Marius Petravicius sank free throws early in the second quarter but Fridzon bettered that with a three-pointer that tied it at 22-22. Langford provided a highlight with a layup-plus-foul and beat the shot clock with a five-meter jumper that capped an 8-0 Khimki run. Jeff Viggiano stepped up with a three-pointer that but a put-back layup by Javtokas gave the hosts a 29-25 lead. Milano called timeout to adjust its offense and tried to run its offense through Finley. Hall sank a jumper that Fridzon erased with a reverse layup in transition. Finley followed a driving layup with a jumper to tie it again at 31-31. Bulleri capped a 0-7 run with a corner three-pointer but a stop-and-pop jumper by Cabezas kept Khimki as close as 33-34. Javtokas shined with a big dunk that Cabezas followed with a driving layup for a 37-34 score. Bulleri scored in penetration and tried to play more aggressive with Mordente and Mancinelli back on the floor. Langford made free throws but Rocca beat the buzzer with a put-back layup that brought Milano within 39-38 at halftime.
Khimki improved its defense after the break, making Milano go scoreless for more than 2 minutes with outstanding blocks by Mozgov and McCarty Free throws by McCarty and Langford allowed Khimki to get a 43-38 lead. Rocca rescued the guests with a backdoor layup but he didn't find much help around. Mozgov got the crowd involved with a dunk and Jankunas banked in a close jumper to give the hosts a 47-42 edge. McCarty stayed on fire with an off-balance jumper that Rocca matched with a layup. Cabezas hit his trademark running jumper, making AJ call timeout at 51-45. Milano opted for a small lineup with Mancinelli at power forward and Khimki immediately opted to feed Jankunas down low. He shined with a three-point play and Milano struggled to score right when it mattered most. Bulleri tried to ignite his team's comeback with a three-pointer but Jankunas answered from downtown for a 57-48 Khimki margin. Free throws by Lopez gave the hosts their best double-digit lead, 59-48, at the end of the third quarter.
Jankunas banked in an open shot early in the fourth quarter, as Milano tried to find Petravicius and Hall for easy points in the paint. Petravicius sank free throws but a corner three-pointer by Lopez boosted Khimki's lead to 64-50. A three-point play by Jankunas sealed the outcome, 67-50, with under 8 minutes left. Milano kept trying, however, but it could not find open shots. Bulleri made free throws and soon added a jumper but he didn't find much help around. Khimki had already started to run the clock down by using long possessions and locked the defensive board to avoid second-chance points. Langford made free throws but a power layup by Rocca kept Milano within 69-56 with over 3 minutes left. Everything was said and done, already, as Khimki confirmed its good moment and had plenty of time for the upcoming Top 16. Meanwhile, Milano kept its Top 16 alive, as it all goes down to its home game against Madrid.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010