Basket City can breathe easy. Kinder Bologna lives to defend its Euroleague title in the final on Sunday after having dispatched their nemesis this season, Benetton Treviso, with a 82-90 victory at home in PalaMalaguti in the semifinals. Kinder will try to become the first team since Jugoplastika more than a decade ago to repeat as Euroleague champion when it faces Panathinaikos, an 83-75 winner over Maccabi in Friday's first semifinal. Kinder broke open a tie game with a scorching run of 10-0 to open the fourth quarter. Benetton didn't know what hit them. Kinder's inside scoring strength combined with perimeter defense turned up to high heat just overwhelmed Benetton, which could not score for almost 5 minutes after having been tied 63-63 entering after three quarters. Marko Jaric was Kinder's driving force all night, scoring 18 points to lead five Kinder scorers in double figures. David Anderson was key in the second half and finished with 15 points, Emanuel Ginobili and Sani Becirovic 14 each and Rashard Griffith 13. Ginobili's 8 rebounds led a 46-31 advantage on the boards for the winners. Tyus Edney and Charlie Bell led Benetton with 19 points each.
Benetton came out as exactly as promised, running non-stop and shooting from long. Charlie Bell opened the game with a three-pointer that was answered at the other end by Jaric, but Kinder's scoring flattened at that point. Bell and Edney began getting to the hoop for Benetton, with spectacular finishes. Nachbar stepped out for the first of two three-pointers, and like were ahead 7-15. Kinder answered, as expected, inside. Matjaz Smodis started them back, but three inside baskets by Rashard Griffith proved the equalizer as Kinder came back within 13-18. Garbajosa hit Benetton's next three, but Kinder closed the quarter with a 10-5 run, including four points from David Andersen. After 10 minutes, it was 23-26 for Benetton, but the home team was back in it.
Ginobili took up the charge for Kinder with a drive and three-pointer that put Kinder ahead for the first time at 28-26, but Massimo Bulleri found his way to the basket three straight times for Benetton. Kinder kept going to its big men, Andersen and Alessandro Frosini now, as the action and spaces on the floor opened up. The guy taking most advantage of it was Jaric, finding points for himself and setting up easier points for his teammates. Edney and Bell were still loose for Benetton, however, so while the fans were treated to spectacular plays, neither team could get a grip on the lead for long. After a short dry spell, Garbajosa raised up and hit his second three-pointer, and Benetton went to the lockers with a 39-41 lead. Edney and Bell had 14 points by then, Nachbar 12 for Benetton. Ginobili and Jaric were up to 12 for Kinder, which had to be happy considering its 3-for-15 three-point shooting in the half.
Benetton came out strong again for the third quarter, as three-pointers by Nachbar and Edney gave the visitors more breathing speace at 43-49. But Jaric took that away with his own three-pointer and after Griffith hit Smodis with a nice pass underneath for a dunk. Ginobili flew in for his own slam, Jaric and Rigaudeau scored, but Edney answered and a pair of Nicola free throws put Benetton up 55-56. The rest of the third quarter, Kinder was forced to trade baskets with Chikalkin, who scored 7 straight points, including a three-pointer, as the two rivals arrived at the 30-minute mark just as they started, tied 63-63.
What looked like a nailbiter that would go down to the last minute changed in nearly that much time. Kinder turned their game up a huge notch as soon as the fourth quarter started. It started innocently enough, as Andersen got to the line for two points and Jaric scored a bucket. But it soon became clear that Benetton was not getting good shots, making hard ones or capable of getting the boards. Kinder's killer defense had kicked in. Meanwhile, on the other end, Andersen couldn't be stopped. He made two more baskets with all the sureness in the world and fed Griffith for a dunk. It all amounted to a 12-0 run and a 75-63 Kinder lead with under 6 minutes left. Benetton tried to answer with it's own 0-7 run, 6 of those points by Nachbar, to cut the deficit to 76-70. But Nachbar was then called for his fifth foul, then Kinder took a rebound of its own missed free throw and Jaric nailed a three-pointer for an 80-70 lead. Barely 2 minutes remained, but Benetton did not die. Charlie Bell nailed his own three, and then Denis Marconato won a duel of free throws against Griffith to pull Benetton within 82-77 with a minute left. But then Marconato missed and Sani Becirovic made 3 of the next 4 free throws. It was 85-77 with 45 seconds left. Jaric added two, while Benetton could not get any threes to drop. Kinder was going to defend it's Euroleague title before it's home crowd on Sunday.
Friday, May 3, 2002