| In the biggest upset of the season so far, CEZ Nymburk of the Czech Republic rode a strong start to a close finish to defeat Khimki Moscow Region of Russia by 86-79 on Saturday and reach the last day of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Qualifying Rounds. Nymburk will play host Belgacom Spirou in Charleroi, Belgium on Sunday, with the winner going to the Euroleague regular season. Nymburk blasted out of the gates to a 21-3 lead in the first quarter and kept building on until ahead by 49-22 at halftime. Khimki's counter-punch was strong, a 5-24 run after halftime that eventually closed the gap to 58-54 early in the final quarter. But that's when Nymburk steadied itself and held on for victory. Tre Simmons scored 18 points, including 4 three-pointers, in the last 9 minutes to lead the winners with 26. Pavel Pumprla followed with 20 points while five Nymburk players had 3 or more assists. Khimki, which played without injured veterans Matt Nielsen and Zoran Planinic, got 25 points each from Kresimir Loncar and Chris Quinn, 12 from Sergey Monya and 10 from Thomas Kelati, but couldn't overcome missing its first 18 shots from the field. Khimki will play in the 2011-12 Eurocup.
Nymburk held Khimki to just free throws for the game's first 3 minutes, and after Benda's baseline jumper and Pumprla's dunk made it 6-2, the Russian club needed a timeout. Little changed, as Benda's block led to a breakaway slam by Lamayne Wilson. Khimki's shooting troubles got worse as its from-the-floor total reached 0-for-12 with no more trips to the foul line. Meanwhile, Benda and Pumprla upped the Nymburk lead to 12-2. When Sergey Monya limped off the floor, Simmons reacted with a cold-blooded triple on the beak. Pumprla got back to the line and was perfect there, before Eugene Lawrence and Mike Lezly upped the difference to 21-3. Khimki got its first basket after 18 misses on a tip-in at the buzzer by Timofey Mozgov, but still trailed 21-5, amazingly enough, after 10 minutes.
Khimki's drought seemed over when Vitaly Fridzon canned his team's first shot of the second quarter, a triple form the corner. Pumprla scored prior to that and Michael Kremens after, from the arc, so Nymburk matched its biggest lead at 26-8. Loncar joined Khimki's scorers with back-to-back baskets but Nymburk was doing as it pleased offensively, matching those and getting a three-point play from Lenzly that made it 33-12. Khimki's frustrations continued as Simmons and Kremens pumped triples for Nymburk and Wilson cut alone back-door to make it a 25-point lead, 41-16. Khimki was up to 10 turnovers and made only 1 of 10 three-point tries by then. Khimki tried fullcourt pressure, but Nymburk was able to match point-for-point all along until Ladislav Sokolovsky put the finishing touch to a spectacular half, a triple that gave the Czechs their biggest lead yet, 49-22 at halftime.
Khimki hit the floor in emergency scoring mode after the break, as Monya buried a three-pointer around a pair of baskets by Hill to quickly cut the difference to 49-29. Now it was Nymburk's shots rimming out and its players losing the ball. Kelati's steal and layup made it a 0-9 run, while Pumprla went 0-for-2 at the foul line trying to get Nymburk's first point of the half. That honor went instead to Lenzly, who made only 1 of 2, while Loncar got Khimki as close as 50-33. The halves were mirror images so far, with Nymburk rushing and missing the same types of shots at the same basket that Khimki had 20 minutes earlier. A free throw by Loncar and a giveaway turnover that Hill converted on the break made it 50-36 and forced another Nymburk timeout. Wilson stopped Nymburk's drought with a two-pointer, but Khimki's onslaught resumed, with Hill, Loncar and Monya filling a 0-10 run to make it 54-46, which was a 5-24 difference since halftime. Khimki kept up the pressure to stay within 58-50 after 30 minutes.
Loncar kept pouring in points to Khimki even closer, 58-54, to start the final quarter. But that's when Nymburk finally reacted in the person of Simmons, whose back-door layup and triple from the corner steadied his team at 63-54. Even as Loncar continued to score and Monya sank a triple, Nymburk exploited Khimki's more aggressive defense for back-door opportunities and a new double-digit lead, 71-59, as Pumprla made 3 of 4 free throws. When Simmons fed Benda to make it 73-59, Nymburk had recovered, but 5 minutes were left. An exchange of free throws knocked another 2 minutes off the clock, but when Quinn nailed a fastbreak jumper, Khimki was within 75-65 with 2:30 to play. Whatever hope that seemed, however, disappeared with a Simmons triple and a big block by Benda. With 1:45 to play and a 78-65 scoreboard, Nymburk was in charge for good and on its way to a huge upset and a date with destiny on Sunday.
Saturday, October 1, 2011