Lietuvos Rytas outlasted Entente Orleans 77-72 in a thriller on Wednesday evening at Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania, to remain on course for a Top 16 berth. The Lithuanian champs improved to 4-3 and will be tied with the winner of Thursday’s game between Partizan and Efes Pilsen for third place in the group. L. Rytas hosts Olympiacos next week. Meanwhile Orleans remains without a win despite a valiant fourth-quarter comeback and has now been eliminated from reaching the next stage. Orleans hosts Partizan next. The hosts soared out to a big lead as Donatas Zavackas scored 8 during a 15-0 first-quarter run. Orleans rallied back to get within 38-34 by halftime and a some clutch baskets and passes by veteran Laurent Sciarra keyed a 0-13 Orleans charge that bridged the third and fourth quarters and gave the visitors the lead. But Orleans went cold when it mattered most and L. Rytas reeled off 9 unanswered points to take control and secure the win. Zavackas led the way with a season-high 20 points, Martynas Gecevicius added 15, Milko Bjelica 14 and point guard Bojan Popovic ran the show with 7 assists and 4 steals for L. Rytas. Austin Nichols scored 16 to pace Orleans. Adrien Moerman added 12 and Aldo Curti and Sciarra scored 10 apiece. Sciarra also dished 5 assists for Orleans, which was undone by its 21 turnovers.
Zavackas was the man for L. Rytas early, draining a triple and cutting for a layup for an early 5-0 lead. Curti got Orleans on the scoreboard with a basket-plus-foul and Cedrick Banks soon put the visitors ahead with a triple. Gecevicius connected from downtown before Curti tied the game at 8-8. L. Rytas’s three-point display continued as Gecevicius and Zavackas both hit from behind the arc, causing Orleans head coach Philippe Herve to call a timeout. However the break did not help his charges. Bjelica netted 2 free throws and Zavackas scored on the offensive glass to stretch the hosts’ lead to double figures. Steponas Babrauskas drained a three and Dejan Borovnjak added 2 more free throws to cap a 15-0 charge. Nichols ended his team’s five-minute scoring drought with 2 free throws to make it 23-10 after 10 minutes.
Nichols looked to heat up with a jumper-plus-foul. Arturas Jomantas answered to keep the hosts in control. Sciarra fed Ludo Vaty for a slam, but Orleans was unable to build any real momentum. Sciarra worked the pick-and-roll for another Vaty slam and then nailed a triple of his own, however Popovic scored his first points from the line and assisted to Aron Baynes. Gecevicius drew an offensive foul from Vaty and Zavackas scored in the paint to put L. Rytas back up by 10. Moerman sank a three-pointer that gave Orleans hope at 31-25. Jomantas and Moerman traded free throws before Anthony Dobbins and Moerman added baskets to bring Orleans within 4. Bjelica came out of a timeout to score inside, but Curti matched him from the line. Jomantas passed an offensive rebound behind his head to Babrauskas for a layup, but Orleans finished the half with some momentum after Sciarra drew a foul from Popovic, who got a technical when he argued the call. The resulting free throws made it 38-34 at the break.
Bjelica came out aggressive for the second half, scoring twice down low for the home team. Dobbins corrected his own miss, but Zavackas hit from downtown again and Popovic added free throws as L. Rytas rebuilt a double-digit edge. Jomantas capped an 11-2 run with 2 from the line to make it 49-36. Orleans did not give up though, as Curti and scored a basket and Nichols netted 3 free throws. Babruaskas answered with a triple, but Covile scored inside and Banks from the line to get the visitors within 6. Banks made it 52-49 with a three-pointer as worried faces could be seen among the fans. Head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis used a timeout to calm his charges, and though the effect was not immediate – Nichols pulled up for a jumper to get Orleans within 2 – Gevevicius did get the green light to shoot and he made back-to-back threes that gave the home side a cushion. Jomantas sliced through the Orleans defense for a layup before Sciarra beat the buzzer to make it 61-55 after three quarters.
Moerman stepped up as the fourth quarter began, drilling a three-pointer and then 2 free throws to cut the gap to 1. Nichols completed the Orleans comeback with a triple from the corner, giving his team its first lead since the opening minutes, 61-63. Covile took the ball inside to cap a 0-13 Orleans run. L. Rytas used a timeout to regroup and Bjelica immediately went at Vaty, scoring and drawing the foul to charge the fans. However Sciarra drew on his experience to hit a clutch shot at the other end. Zavackas hit from downtown as the crowd began to shout with its team down 1 with less than five minutes remaining. Popovic stripped Banks and then tied the game from the line. Banks found Covile for a two-handed slam, but Zavackas tied the game at 69-69 with three minutes to play. Bjelica drew Covile’s fifth foul and sank a free throw to put the hosts up with 2:47 to play. Bjelica stayed hot with a basket-plus-foul before a Jomantas steal and Gecevicius triple made it 76-69 with 85 seconds remaining. Nichols drew a foul and went to the line, but made just 1. Another Nichols jumper made it a 4-point game, but a Popovic offensive rebound allowed L. Rytas to run out the clock as Jomantas sealed the win from the line.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009