Alba Berlin returned to the Euroleague with an impressive win on Thursday, beating Lottomatica Roma 68-63 at the o2 World Arena, the site of the 2009 Euroleague Basketball Final Four. A sold team-effort led by an impressive Immanuel McElroy saw the German champs rebound from a 9-point deficit shortly before halftime to take control down the stretch en route to victory. Roma led by 5 early in the fourth quarter, however a well-timed timeout sparked a 9-0 Alba run that swung the control to the hosts. Roma, led by Primoz Brezec, came bask to tie the game at 61-61, but Sani Becirovic was the tragic hero as he misfired twice on key shots down the stretch, while McElroy and Aleksandar Nadjfeji finished Roma off. McElroy finished the night with 17 points and 9 rebounds, Nadjfeji came off the bench to score 12 and Adam Chubb added 12 points and 8 boards fro Berlin, which outrebounded Roma 38-22. Luigi Datome paced Roma with 13 points, Andre Hutson added 11 and Brezec scored 10. Berlin travels to Istanbul to face Fenerbahce Ulker next week, while Roma returns home to host DKV Joventut.
Roma center Brezec sterted strong on both ends of the floor, forcing McElroy to travel on one end and then opening the scoring with a shot inside. McElroy answered with a tough jumper for Alba's first basket, but then Allan Ray stole the ball and showed his quickness by going past Casey Jacobsen for a layup-plus-foul. The visitors seemed to feel at home in Berlin as Ibrahim Jaaber came off the weak side to make a monstrous block on the defensive end and finished the sequence by finding Angelo Gigli for an open three that made it 2-8 after just four minutes. Jacobsen showed the way for Alba by nailing a three-point bomb. Steffen Hamman followed with a bank-shot and a dish to McElroy to make it 9-10. Brezec kept dominating inside for Roma, but the hosts finally found their flow with Ansu Sesay hitting a three for Alba's first lead of the game, 15-14. Ray attacked the paint for 2 at the other end to give Roma a 15-16 lead after 10 minutes.
The scoring picked up slightly in the second period with the teams trading layups and leads. Datome looked determined to change that as he came off the bench to put up a shooting clinic to remember. He knocked 3 from downtown and added a two-pointer in a short span of only two-and-a-half minutes, single-handedly outscoring Alba 5-11. Then Chubb finished strong inside for Berlin, but Brandon Jennings added another three to give Roma a 7-point cushion. Chubb continued to work his way to points inside, and so did Hutson for Roma. Rashad Wright broke the Roma defense for an easy score, but things got only worse for Alba when Sani Becirovic made Roma's fifth three-pointer of the period to make it 31-40. Alba bounced back, as Nadjfeji got inside and Wright went coast to coast for 4 straight Alba points to reduce it the deficit to 35-40 before halftime.
Berlin’s aggressive play overwhelmed Roma to start the second half. First Chubb drove for a dunk and then Hamann hit a mid-range jumper over Brezec. Roma just couldn't match Alba's energy level, as McElroy and Jacobsen almost held each other's hands while making the put-back of a Hamann fast-break miss to overtake the lead at 41-40. Ray stepped up for Roma with a big three and a brilliant assist to Brezec for a slam, but Alba didn't quit attacking. McElroy especially seemed to be in the center of every possession as he drew fouls – including one on the offensive glass for a three-point play – dove for loose balls and inspired his teammates and the crowd. Roma head coach Jasmin Repesa was forced to take a timeout as Jacobsen finished an Alba fast break that gave Berlin a 50-45 lead. Roma responded immediately and went inside to Hutson for a turn-around shot, and then Jennings hit his second three-pointer of the game to even it at 50-50. Becirovic capped the 7-0 Roma run with a layup to make it 50-52 with 10 minutes to go.
Nadjfeji tied it to start the fourth quarter, but Hutson answered with another turn-around shot. Then Becirovic forced the Berlin defense to collapse on his drive and found a wide open Jennings for another Roma three-pointer. At 52-57 and with only eight minutes to go, it was time for an Alba timeout. It worked out well, as Chubb forced a foul inside for 2 free throws, and Jacobsen hit Alba's first three of the half, releasing it about two meters behind the three-point line. Finally, Sesay gave Alba the lead, and after Datome lost the ball at the other end, McElroy hammered down a slam with authority to finish a 9-0 run and bring the Berlin crowd on its feet. After a Roma timeout, Datome scored inside off his own miss, then Brezec overpowered Alba's defense to draw a foul and force head coach Luka Pavicevic to call another timeout for Alba. At 61-61 Becirovic found the space for a wide open shot from about three meters, but misfired. Alba got the rebound and ran downcourt, where Ray tried to stop McElroy with a hard foul. McElroy got up and made both free throws for a 63-61 Berlin lead. Nadjfeji drew a charge from Becirovic at the other end and then got past Brezec to draw a foul. He split the free throws, but Roma couldn't take advantage of his miss, as it was once again Becirovic that missed an open layup from the left side. On the next possession, McElroy found Nadjfeji on a classic pick-and-roll move to finish Roma off. Nadjfeji was also fouled, and this time he didn't miss, making it 67-61 with 16 seconds to go. Alba closed all Roma's shooters and Hutson dunked it on the other end, but it was too late for Roma, as Wright split two free throws for the final score 68-63.
Thursday, October 23, 2008