Nothing is for certain in the Euroleague, and Zalgiris Kaunas proved it today, providing the biggest surprise of the day by beating FC Barcelona 98-102 on the road in Spain on Thursday night. Zalgiris bounced back from last week's home loss against Union Olimpija to improve to 2-2 in the Group B board, joining a four-way tie for the third spot in the standings with Olimpija, Montepaschi Siena and Scavolini Pesaro. Meanwhile, Barcelona dropped to 3-1 and holds the second in Group B behind Maccabi Tel Aviv, the group leader at 4-0 and one of the 3 unbeaten teams along with Climamio Bologna and CSKA Moscow. All 5 Zalgiris starters scored 16 point or more, as Vidas Ginevicius led the winners with 24 points on 4 of 4 two-pointers and 4 of 5 threes, Mindaugas Timinskas added 21 on 3 of 4 three-pointers, Tanoka Beard added 17 on 8 of 12 two-pointers and 9 rebounds and both Dainius Salenga and Robert Pack scored 16 points apiece, which Salenga added to a game-high 8 assists. Vlado Ilievski had 19 points and 6 assists for Barcelona, Dejan Bodiroga added 16 points, Juan Carlos Navarro 14, Gregor Fucka 13 and Roberto Dueñas 12 and 9 rebounds for the hosts.
Zalgiris started the game with a very athletic team, which Timinskas and Salenga at both forward spots and Beard as the only real frontcourt unit. Back-to-back layups by Timinskas and Beard powered Zalgiris to a 6-10 lead after 3 minutes. Gregor Fucka was the go-to guy for Barcelona, scoring the first two baskets for the hosts, but Ginevicius drilled a three-pointer for a 6-13 Zalgiris lead. Barcelona head coach Joan Montes move some pieces trying to make his team get back into the game, introducing Victor Sada on court, and both Christian Drejer and Navarro soon after that. It didn't work, as Beard dominated near the basket while three-pointers by Timinskas and an unstoppable Ginevicius powered the guests to a 12-25 margin. Nothing changed in the final minutes of this period, as Zalgiris kept a 16-28 lead after 10 minutes.
Drejer opened the second period with a basket, but Ainars Bagatskis immediately fired back from downtown for a 18-31 Zalgiris lead. Barcelona improved its defense, while a 7-0 run in which Sada had 4 points and Navarro drilled a three-pointer brought the hosts within 25-31 after 13 minutes, forcing coach Antanas Sireika to call timeout. Zalgiris tried to look for Tanoka in the middle, as its center didn't disappoint with back-to-back baskets but boosted the guests' lead to 30-39. Bodiroga, who had just returned to court, was in charge now, scoring 4 points in a 11-4 run in which Ilievski's free throws made it a two-point game at 41-43. Ginevicius made a mid-range jumper with a minute to go in the half, but Barcelona had time to score 7 points in the final 16 seconds due to a basket by Bodiroga, followed by Ilievski's free throws and capped by Rodrigo De La Fuente's three-pointer which powered Barcelona to a 50-45 margin at halftime, as Zalgiris had quickly lost its lead.
Barcelona opened the second half with 2 free throws by Navarro, while Dueñas started to intimidate everyone around the hosts' basket. Meanwhile, all Zalgiris top guns had a slow start in the second half, as Barcelona's defense limited with opponents to just 7 points in the opening 5 minutes of the third. Dueñas stepped up with 6 quick points in the other end, while Ilievski and Bodiroga scored free throws to give the hosts a 61-52 margin midway through the third. Zalgiris faced severe foul trouble as Beard picked up his fourth foul early in this period. Top prospect Marty Andriuskevicius replaced him and drew three shooting fouls, but only made 1 of 6 free throws. Salenga became Zalgiris' go-to guy when his team needed one, scoring 10 points in this period. Zalgiris finally found the way to beat the hosts' defense late in the third, as Timinskas scored near the basket, Salenga added a three-pointer and Ginevicius a three-point play to bring the guests within 66-64. Even when Barcelona used a 9-2 run capped by Fucka's layup to extend its lead to 75-66, a final three by the ever-present Ginevicius brought Zalgiris within 75-69 entering the fourth.
Ilievski and a three-point play by Jordi Trias gave Barcelona its biggest lead of the game, 80-70, with 8 minutes to go, but Beard had other ideas in mind. He returned to the floor to follow Timinskas' three with a three-point play to bring Zalgiris within 80-76. Trias scored again, but Beard and Timinskas were now on fire. Salenga and Timinskas combined 6 quick points to give Zalgiris a 83-84 edge. Navarro fired back with a big three of his own, which Bodiroga followed with a basket in crunch time to power Barcelona to a 88-84 lead. It didn't last long, however, as another bomb from downtown by Timinskas started a 0-9 run capped by Ginevicius' fourth three-pointer which powered Zalgiris to a 88-93 margin with over 2 minutes to go. Ilievski, who had 9 points in the final period, fired in a big three in the middle of a free throws battle to make it a one-point game at 95-96. Pack took over with 4 of 4 free throws in the last 17 seconds, while a turnover by Navarro sealed the outcome, as Zalgiris left the court with a valuable road win against one of the top teams in the competition.
Thursday, November 25, 2004