One more time, the fight between Benetton Treviso and visiting Strasbourg was solved in the final moments as the hosts survived by 83-78 to share a piece of first place in Group A once again. The game entered the last two minutes with Benetton only leading by a single point, 73-72, until a triple by Andrea Bargnani broke the game open for Benetton. The win allows Benetton to share the first place with Zalgiris and Tau, all with 6-3 records after the Lithuanians lost to Spaniards on Thursday. Strasbourg drops to 3-6, tied with AEK Athens for sixth place. Drew Nicholas led the way for Benetton with 23 points, including 6 of 10 triples. Bargnani added 20 points and Ramunas Siskauskas posted 16. For Strasbourg, the Greer brothers, Ricardo and Jeff, led the way with 16 points apiece, while K'Zell Wesson and Ondrej Starosta nailed 10 each.
The Greer brothers got Strasbourg started with a 4-10 lead to open the game and force a Benetton timeout after 2 minutes. Later, Jeff Greer added a triple for a 4-13 score, but Benetton's Petar Popovic soon reacted with back-to-back baskets, pulling the hosts within 8-13. Starosta had his own reaction, a dunk-plus-free throw to make it 8-16 midway through the quarter. Oxygen for the hosts came with three-pointers by Nicholas and Siskauskas, as Benetton tied with an 8-0 run, 18-18, thanks to a drive from Bargnani. The run was enlarged to 13-1 as Nicholas found another triple and Bargnani a jumper from the corner, making it 24-19. John McCord broke a three-minute scoring silence for Strasbourg but Bargnani hit the fourth Benetton shot from downtown to make it 27-21 after 10 minutes.
Strasbourg grabbed offensive boards to stay alive in the second quarter as Sacha Giffa and Aymeric Jeanneau scored back-to-back baskets to reduce gap to 27-25. Benetton answered with a quick 5-0 run – a triple from Bargnani, a dunk from Popovic – but Strasbourg went inside to stay as close as 33-29 at minute 13. Uros Slokar and Nicholas pushed the lead to 8 points, 37-29, with a dunk and free throws, but Ricardo Greer led a 0-7 response for the guests. Greer shot over Benetton's big men, dunked on a fastbreak and Strasbourg came within 37-36 when Starosta added a foul shot. As in the first quarter, Benetton found big shots to revive. Siskauskas and Nicholas landed three-pointers, then a Siskauskas drive capped a 8-0 burst to push Benetton ahead by 45-36 at halftime.
Jeff Greer nailed a corner triple early in the third quarter and Strasbourg starter feeding Starosta, whose free throws cut the lead to 4 points, 47-43. Nicholas shocked everyone with 3 consecutive three-pointers as Benetton tried to run away at 56-45. After McCord and Wesson got 4 points back for Strasbourg, Nicholas fed Marcus Goree for a low-post basket and a jumper to make it 60-51. Strasbourg kept fighting as consecutive free throws by Jeff Greer and Stanley Jackson got the visitors back to within 60-55. To block the rally, Benetton found an unpredictable three-pointer by youngster Luca Sottana before a couple of free throws by Bargnani fixed a 65-57 score at the end of three quarters.
Strasbourg followed Ricardo Greer to get back on track as his energy produced enough points for the guests to draw within 65-61 after a minute in the fourth quarter. Bargnani and Jackson traded jumpers before Siskauskas scored from inside to make Benetton breathe and Mordente scored a difficult jumper making it 71-64 with 4 minutes to play. Just when Benetton looked in control, Strasbourg got the momentum again with a 0-6 run as Jeff Greer hit a jumper over Slokar and McCord finished a fastbreak that made it 73-72. After a Benetton timeout, Siskauskas found room to drive and make it 75-72. Later, Goree replied to Wesson’s layup to make it 77-74. With 1 minute to play, Wesson saw his shot spitted out by the rim and Bargnani made Strasbourg pay with a clutch triple, pushing Benetton up by 6 points, 80-74, with 33 seconds left. Bargnani then secured the win with free throws to ice Benetton's sixth triumph in Group A.
Thursday, January 5, 2006