Cibona Zagreb survived a true thriller at the Drazen Petrovic Basketball Center in the Croatian capital to edge Asvel Basket 73-71 and secure a Top 16 berth. Cibona’s win combined with that of Zalgiris over Fenerbahce Ulker created a four-way tie in Group A, which led to Zalgirs and Cibona finishing third and fourth, respectively, and advancing to the Top 16. The game featured four lead changes in the last six minutes and came down to the final seconds. Asvel, needing 3 to tie it, got within when Bobby Dixon opted for a layup with 7.3 seconds left. After Marko Tomas drilled 2 clutch free throws at the other end, Dixon was sent to the line. Hoping to make the first, miss the second and have a teammate score the offensive rebound, he instead missed the first and made the second, effectively killing Asvel’s season. Tomas led Cibona with 24 points, drawing 12 fouls and making 11 of 15 free throws. Jamont Gordon added 16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals for the winners, Luksa Andric scored 13 and Bojan Bogdanovic 11. Ali Traore led Asvel with 16 points and 8 rebounds, Eric Campbell scored 15, Mindaugas Lukauskis 11 and Dixon 10. Rawle Marshall, one of Asvel’s top players and formerly of Cibona, struggled and ended up with just 1 points in 28 minutes.
Andric started strong for the hosts with a dish to Leon Radosevic for a slam and a steal and layup in the first minute. Campbell broke the ice for Asvel with a three-pointer. Bogdanovic and Lukauskis traded baskets before Tomas nailed a three for the hosts. Traore got involved down low for Asvel, but Gordon heated up with 2 free throws and a steal and layup to make it 13-7. Dixon fired back from downtown, but Andric kept Cibona rolling with a score thanks to a pass from Gordon. The guard then rifled in a triple to put Cibona up 8. Campbell and Ben Dewar responded to keep Asvel close. Tomas went 6 for 6 from the line over the next three possessions. Dewar sank another three from the corner before Dalibor Bararic’s free throws made it 26-18 after 10 minutes
Kristjan Kangur looked to ignite the visitors with a triple to start the second quarter, however Tomas was there for Cibona. Tomas also answered when Traore scored a basket-plus-foul, making a triple of his own to keep Cibona cruising. Another Traore basket and a Lukauskis free throw brought Asvel within 4. Gordon fired in a big three, but Traore kept Asvel going with another three-the-hard-way. Gordon stole the ball and fed Bogdanovic, who a minutes later had his own steal and slam to make it 39-32. Eric Campbell scored for Asvel on the offensive glass and again cut the deficit to 5 when he took a pass from Traore for a layup. But Gordon fed Bogdanovic for a score and Tomas capped an excellent first half with a three at the buzzer to give Cibona a 46-36 edge at the break.
Bogdanovic started the second half with a free throw. Traore hit back with a foul line jumper, however Andric battered him with a layup-plus-foul. Kangur hit from downtown to give Asvel hope as the level of intensity rose for both teams. Cibona players were rewarded with warm applause for their hustle, nevertheless Asvel clawed its way back on a Lukauskis layup and Traore bucket underneath to make it 50-45. Vedran Vukusic scored his first points and Tomas continued his hot shooting from the line as the lead swelled back to 9. And Gordon brought the crowd to its feet with a steal and reverse slam to restore a double-digit lead. Gordon whipped a perfect pass to Andric for an easy basket to cap an 8-0 run. Asvel used a timeout, after which Campbell hit from downtown. Robert Troha responded in form, but another Campbell three made it 61-53 heading into the fourth quarter.
Bangaly Fofana made a brief appearance and scored from the line before Dixon went through the Cibona defense to bring Asvel within 5, leading to a Cibona timeout. Aymeric Jeanneau silenced the crowd with a three-pointer, but Gordon answered with a tough layup. Turnovers for each team followed as the tension rose to new heights. Traore made it 63-61 with a left-handed hook show with six minutes remaining. Lukauskis completed the Asvel comeback with a three-pointer, after which he motioned to silence the fans. Andric fought through a double team for a basket, but Lukauskis returned the lead to Asvel with a layup-plus-foul. After a Gordon free throw, Tomas willed his way through and around three defenders for a layup plus foul to put Cibona back on top, 68-67. He missed the free throw, but Andric got the offensive rebound and basket when Campbell committed goaltending. Andric fouled out at the other end and Marshall scored his first point of the game with a free throw. Tomas also made 1 free throw to keep Cibona ahead by 3. Marshall lost the ball on a crucial possession with just over a minute left. Tomas missed twice from the line with 47 second left, but Vukusic got the offensive rebound for Cibona. However after milking the clock he missed from downtown. Dixon penetrated for a layup to make it a 1-point game with 7.3 second left. Asvel fouled Tomas, who made 2 from the line with 4.8 seconds left. Cibona sent Dixon to the line with 2.7 seconds left. He came up short on the first and made the second. Asvel was unable to foul Cibona again as the fans in Zagreb celebrated a thrilling win and ticket to the next stage.
Thursday, January 14, 2010