The good times continue to roll in Vilnius, Lithuania, where Lietuvos Rytas remained unstoppable in Group B with a blowout 80-52 victory over visiting Cibona on Thursday for a sellout crowd of 11,000 at Siemens Arena. Its sixth consecutive win gave L. Rytas a 6-2 record and assured it at least a continued share of first place in Group B going into 2006. Cibona dropped to 4-4 but will play four of its remaining six regular season games at home, where it is still undefeated. Robertas Javtokas did it all for the winners with 15 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks. Roberts Stelmahers added 14 points and 6 rebounds, Matt Nielsen 13 points and Fred House 11. The L.Rytas defense held Cibona to 13-for-56 shooting and outrebounded its opponents by 38-26. Bennett Davison and Scoonie Penn each had 11 points for Cibona. L.Rytas led 21-14 after 10 minutes, while three-pointers by House and Mindaugas Lukauskis boosted its margin to 37-26 at halftime. Nielsen had 10 points in the third period, which ended 56-38, pointing the way to the hosts' sixth consecutive Euroleague victory.
Stelmahers opened the scoring for L. Rytas with a pair of three-pointers, but then Davison and Penn got to the foul line and sank free throws to make it 6-4. Cibona's man-to-man defense didn't stop Simas Jasaitis from hitting a triple from the right corner. On offense, Cibona tried to put the ball inside but they couldn't get there. The L. Rytas defense was aggressive and ready. House nailed the hosts' fourth triple to widen the gap to 16-9 before Penn answered with more free throws. Even a fastbreak opportunity went wrong for Cibona as Davison was whistled for his third foul. Cibona tried to get back on track when Marin Rozic made an easy layup and Mate Skelin added a free throw, but Nielsen brought some energy and got to the rim to make it 21-14 Lietuvos Rytas after a quarter.
Andrius Slezas came fresh from the bench and nailed a new triple for the hosts, then Javtokas added an uncontested layup to start the secnd quarter with a 5-0 run to the first double-digit lead, 26-14. Cibona answered with rejuvenized offense as Penn and Davor Marcelic buried triples to get visitors within 26-20. Cibona still struggled from the line but Penn stayed on fire, making a flashy layup over Javtokas. L. Rytas took charge for good, however as Javtokas pushed in a difficult put-back, while House and Mindaugas Lukauskis hit back-to-back-to-back three-pointers to rebuild a double-digit lead, 37-23. Cibona responded quickly with a basket-plus-foul by Luksa Andric but still was down 37-26 at the break.
Turn-around jumpers exchanged by Javtokas and Skelin started second half. Nielsen continued his aggressive play in the paint, dropping a pair of jumphooks to make it 43-28. The intensified hosts' defence limited Cibona to only 2 points in the first 5 minutes of the third quarter, as Nielsen himself stroked in 6 consecutively and Lukauskis dunked spectacularly to complete a 12-1 run to a 53-31 advantage. Penn with free throws and Davison with a triple were all Cibona could count on to reduce the difference to 53-38. Still, the end of the quarter belonged to L. Rytas as Tomas Delininkaitis converted his chance from the arc to make it 56-38 after 30 minutes.
L. Rytas started the final quarter finding Javtokas inside for a basket-plus-foul. Cibona just couldn't stop big men of L. Rytas as Javtokas and Nielsen dominated in the paint. Davor Kus and Damir Markota put in baskets that helped to cut the deficit, but Stelmahers and House just nailed consecutive triples in response, widening the gap to 67-44. They combined for more points, a difficult layup by Stelmahers and free throws by House, to put the outcome completely beyond doubt at 71-44 with 4 minutes left. There was still a highlight for the home crowd as a superb dunk by Javtokas lifted the lead to 30 points, 75-45. In addition to its sixth win in a row, Lietuvos Rytas had put its name clearly among the Euroleague contenders heading into 2005-06.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005