Real Madrid took another step in its would-be climb to the Final Four in its own city when it oulasted never-say-die Zalgiris Kaunas 88-85 in the Top 16, Group F opening game for both teams on Thursday. Raul Lopez scored 4 of his 8 points in the final minute, including the insurance free throws on an intentional foul with 5 seconds left, to seal Madrid's victory. Louis Bullock and Felipe Reyes shared top-scoring honors for the winners with 17 points each while Charles Smith had 15 and Alex Mumbru 11. For Zalgiris, Jonas Maciulis put down 21 points while Marcus Brown and newly signed big man Mamadou N'Diaye added 14 each and Marko Popovic 11. DeJuan Collins just missed a double-double with 11 points and 9 assists for Zalgiris. A back-and-forth scoreboard for most of the game titled in Madrid's direction finally due to an 11-0 run to begin the final quarter that started and finished with triples by Smith. A three-point barrage near the finish by Zalgiris trimmed the difference all the way to 86-85, however, when Maciulis hit a final one with 16 seconds left. His foul on Lopez was ruled intentional, however, giving Madrid all the cards at the finish. Both teams were scorching from downtown, with Madrid making 11 of 23 triples. and Zalgiris 14 of 28 on the night.
Collins corralled the tipoff and passed over everyone to Jankunas for a dunk to start the game. After a Zalgiris steal, Maciulis earned free throws going inside, as did Collins on the break to make it 0-6. Surprise starter Iker Iturbe, just signed a few days ago, got Madrid going with a second-chance triple to with Lopez added a steal and fastbreak at 5-6. When Bullock got open for a transition triple, the hosts were ahead 8-6. Their run reached 12-0 as Iturbe buried another triple. Maciulis went back inside to stop the bleeding for Zalgiris, but Bullock's bakc-to-back baskets pushed Madrid ahead by 16-8. The scoring stalled then until Zalgiris newcomer N'Diaye sparked his new team with 5 points in a row to make it 18-13. Maciulis buried a triple to cut the difference again, but Axel Hervelle answered from the arc to close the quarter with Madrid in charge, 22-16.
Smith opened the second quarter with free throws but one by Mantas Kalnietis and a three-point play by N'Diaye had Zalgiris close again, 24-20. Bodies were flying in rebounding battles as Madrid pressed full-court, but Jankunas posted up and Collins hit free throws to make it 26-24. Despite fierce offensive rebounding by Madrid, Jankunas who hooked the next shot in to tie before Marko Popovic gave Zalgiris a new lead, 26-29, from downtown. Bullock struck right back from deep and then Hervelle made it 31-29 for Madrid with a sweet alley-oop reverse on the break. A prolonged exchange of free throws had Madrid up 38-33 before Mumbru's post-up drop-in forced a Zalgiris timeout. Popovic's double-pump triple revived the guests, but Madrid kept pounding the paint to lead 43-36. Popovic, however, had the last word before halftime, from way downtown, for a 43-49 scoreboard at the break.
N'Diaye kept the momentum going for Zalgiris after the half and Collins completed the turnaround with a triple to make it 43-44. The teams wrestled over the lead, with Reyes and Bullock boosting Madrid in front 48-50 before Brown did what has become something of a habit for him now, taking over the scoreboard with 3 consecutive three-pointers that vaulted Zalgirs into the lead again at 48-54. Reyes and Bullock got Madrid within 52-54 before Goran Jurak hit free throws and buried his own triple as Zalgiris surged ahead 52-59. Madrid stood up to the challenge with a triple in response from Axel Hervelle, a back-door basket by Smith and free throws by Bullock to leave a 59-59 tie after 30 minutes.
Madrid kept rolling into the final quarter, which Smith opened with a triple and Kerem Tunceri followed with the same coin, forcing a Zalgiris timeout. Madrid's defense man-handled Zalgiris long enough for Smith to launch again from the arc to complete an 11-0 start to the quarter with the scoreboard showing 70-59. Maciulis stopped the bleeding for Zalgiris with a triple before N'Daiye put down a feed from Collins and the bonus free throw to make it 70-65. Mumbru turned around and got 3 points back on a basket-plus-free throw, then Smith stole and dunked to restore the double-digit difference, 75-65, with under 5 minutes left. Maciulis worked inside for a three-point play but Mumbru dunked a Madrid miss. When Brown bombed from the corner, it ignited a three-point shootout. Tunceri blasted his own triple, Jankunas and Popovic found their own downtown strikes for Zalgiris as the difference fell to 82-77. Ever-steady Reyes drove to the rim, but Collins hit free throws and Maciulis got another three-point basket-plus-free throw off a rebound to make it 84-82 with 42 seconds left. Lopez drove for a layup with 26 seconds left for Madrid, but then Maciulis downed another triple to make it 86-85. There were 16 seconds left, but Madrid was able to outrun Zalgiris for 11 of them before Maciulis was called for an intentional foul on Lopez, who made both free throws to seal an 88-85 victory.
Thursday, February 14, 2008