Say what you will about what happened in the middle, Idea Slask Wroclaw finished off the regular season much as it started, with a win on the road, this one by 65-66 over Unicaja in Spain. In what was a defensive game anyway, a final drive to the basket by Unicaja's top scorer of the night, Danya Abrams (20 points), was muffled by the Slask defense to preserve the victory. That made two victories in the final three games for Slask, who took its other pair of victories in the very first two weeks of the season. This last triumph was good enough to give Slask a 4-10 record and sole possession of sixth place in Group A. Unicaja, locked in fifth place, finished 6-8. The winners were led in scoring by Dainius Adomaitis with 19 points. Michael Hawkins added 13, Michael Wright 12 and 8 rebounds, and and newcomer Aleh Kojenets 10 points and 7 rebounds. The contribution by Kojenets and six points each by recently acquired guards Tomas Pacesas and Aleksander Miloserdov not only helped in a tight game on the road but boded well for Slask in domestic competition. Besides Abrams, who also pulled six rebounds, Unicaja also got 11 points from Carlos Cabezas and 10 from Berni Rodriguez. Unfortunately, this final defeat probably reminded fans of a couple similar ones on the home floor that might have turned Unicaja's season around if they had gone differently down the stretch.
Slask came out stomping from the start, putting up an 0-7 lead on baskets by Miloserdov, Adomaitis and Wright. That cushion served throughout the first quarter to keep the visitors comfortably ahead, by 7-18 before Cabezas drained a three-pointer to cap a 6-0 Unicaja run. But then Slask ripped off the final five points of the quarter, four of them by Adomaitis, to take a somewhat surprising 12-22 win after 10 minutes.
The lead would hit a high of 16-30 midway through the second quarter as Miloserdov made a three-point shot and Hawkins a three-point play. But that is when Moustapha Sonko, on a three-pointer as the shot clock sounded, started Unicaja all the way back. That sparked what would wind up being a 15-2 run for Malaga in which Abrams did some more damange and Veljko Mrsic made the final layup. A minute was left in the quarter, and though Slask got back to scoring, Abrams and Co. did not stop until they had a 35-34 halftime lead, amounting to a 15-point swing in 5 minutes.
Unicaja did nothing to guard its new, good fortune after halftime, however. Slask regained control of the proceedings by reeling off 10 unanswered points in the first 3 minutes of the third quarter. Unicaja responded with a 6-1 run to get within 41-45, but from there the visitors held onto two- and three-basket leads for several minutes, and ended the quarter up 43-49.
That comfortable lead held at 49-55 midway through the final quarter when Unicaja ade its final lunge. Abrams stepped out for a three-pointer on one possession, then drove the hoop on the next to make it 54-57. Pacesas rained on the comeback idea with a three-pointer, but Paco Vazques answered in kind for Malaga. Soon, Cabezas and Rodriguez were raising up from behind the arc for the home team, too, which took its first lead at 65-64 with 50 seconds remaining. As it turned out, the only scoring left came off two free throws by Adomaitis. With the final possession, Adams missed a drive that got batted around until a jump ball was called with one second left. Slask won the tap and the Euroleague season ended for two teams who thought they had better in them.
Wednesday, February 13, 2002