Unicaja finally got its first Top 16 home victory by thrashing Lottomatica Roma 99-64 in Malaga, Spain, in Group G on Wednesday. Despite of improving to 2-3, Unicaja was out of the Quarterfinal Playoffs race already before the tip-off, as was the still winless Lottomatica. Though both clubs missed important players due to injuries, sharpshooter Thomas Kelati made it a night to remember for Malaga's fans. He needed only 7 attempts to nail an impressive 6 three-pointers in the first quarter and added 3 more triples in the second half to tie Saulius Stombergas's eight-year old Euroleague record of 9 three-pointers in a single game. Kelati finished with a career-high 33 points to go with 7 rebounds and 3 steals. Marcus Haislip and Vitor Faverani worked hard inside to score 16 points each - a career-high for Faverani - Joseph Gomes added 13 points, while another big man, Paulo Prestes chipped in with 10 points and 8 rebounds in his Euroleague debut for Unicaja. For Roma, Brandon Jennings was the top scorer with 17 points, Angelo Gigli notched 13 points and pulled down 9 rebounds and Ruben Douglas had 10 points.
Prestes made a put-back and then a layup off an Omar Cook assist to score Unicaja's first 4 points, but Gigli had some sweet revenge at the other end, dunking on Prestes despite being fouled. Kelati drilled a three-pointer to make it 7-4 in the hosts's favor. Next, Prestes dunked off another put-back and Cook nailed a triple to widen the margin to 12-6. Ibrahim Jaaber scored from way behind the ark for Lottomatica, but Kelati took over with back-to-back three-pointers, a layup and yet another triple, single-handedly outscoring the visitors 11-0 to expand Unicaja's advantage to 25-11. After Ruben Douglas scored for the guests, Kelati hit his fifth three-pointer, before he finished the quarter by stealing the ball and making his sixth three-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer to make it 31-15.
Faverani opened the second quarter with a pair of layups for the hosts, before Jennings ignited a 2-7 Roma run with 5 points and an alley-oop assist to Jaaber, cutting the difference to 37-24. But Gomis scored 5 points to lead a 7-0 Unicaja response to make it a 20-point game: 44-24. Though an aggressive Jennings was good for more points, and Luigi Datome worked inside to help him with a put-back, Haislip wouldn't let Roma come closer. Haislip dunked off an offensive rebound, hit 2 free throws, a corner triple and a two-pointer, scoring 9 points in an 11-0 run by Unicaja that closed the first half at 55-30.
Kelati continued to torture Lottomatica from behind the arc at the start of the third quarter, while Haislip did his damage from the free throw line. After Jennings split free throws at the other end, Cook found an open Kelati for his eighth triple of the night that made it 63-31. Jennings kept attacking with a layup and 2 free throws, but Lottomatica just wasn't able to make stops on defense, as Faverani punished them with 2 straight dunks. Kelati was once again open to hit his ninth three-pointer. Haislip and Faverani scored 4 free throws, before Jennings ran coast to coast, Douglas made a shot and Brezec a put-back to make it 75-45. Berni Rodriguez and Carlos Cabezas finished the third quarter with a triple and 2 free throws, and it was 80-45 with 10 minutes to go.
Gigli scored the first 4 points of the fourth quarter, before Gomis answered with 6 straight at the other end. After taking a rest on the bench, Kelati re-entered the court, as the game's only unanswered question was whether he would succeed in breaking the Euroleague single-game three-point record. Meanwhile, Prestes and Haislip kept dominating inside to make it 90-51. Datome and Gigli worked inside, too, while Kelati chased the record, but stepped on the line when he made what seemed to be his tenth triple. Kelati had another clear look with 19 seconds left on the clock, but couldn't hit, and his tough buzzer-beater attempt rimed out as well.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009