| Partizan almost put both feet in the upcoming Euroleague Quarterfinal Playoffs by topping Unicaja 74-78 in overtime in Malaga, Spain on Wednesday night. Partizan improved to 3-1 in Group G while Unicaja dropped to 1-3. In fact, Partizan will reach the playoffs - and Unicaja will be mathematically eliminated - if Panathinaikos beats Lottomatica in Roma on Thursday. Jan Vesely became the game hero for Partizan with consecutive offensive rebounds and a free throw that sealed the outcome with 4 seconds to go. Stephane Lasme led the winners with 20 points and 8 rebounds. Uros Tripkovic and Novica Velickovic each added 17 points while Milenko Tepic and Aleksandar rasic dished 6 assists apiece for Partizan. Boni Ndong led Unicaja with 14 points. Carlos Cabezas added 13, Robert Archibald had 12 while Omar Cook dished 8 assists and collected 5 steals for the hosts, that led 58-51 after three quarters. Lasme and Tripkovic brought Partizan back to life while both teams went scoreless in a chaotic final minute of regulation to take the game to overtime, 65-65. Three-pointers by Tripkovic, Rasic and Tepic put Partizan ahead for good, 66-74. Unicaja managed to get within 74-76 but Vesely stepped up to win it for Partizan.
Partizan struggled to score in the opening 2 minutes. Meanwhile, a left-handed jump hook by Archibald and a five-meter jumper by Joseph Gomis gave Unicaja a 4-0 edge. Velickovic got Partizan going with a three-pointer, as Unicaja kept running its offense through Archibald. Gomis nailed a six-meter jumper, as Partizan tried to get Tepic and Velickovic tried a tall lineup with Velickovic and Vesely at both forwards. Tripkovic stepped up with back-to-back triples to give Partizan its first lead, 7-9. as Unicaja lost control in offense. Zarko Rakocevic dunked it but free throws by Archibald kept Unicaja within 9-11. Vesely took over with a wild one-handed dunk over Ndong while a fast break layup by Strahinja Milosevic made Unicaja call timeout at 9-15. Cabezas fired in a three-pointer but free throws by Lasme kept Partizan ahead, 12-17. Cabezas kept pacing Unicaja with a tough jumper while Thomas Kelati copied him soon after that to bring Unicaja within 17-18 after 10 minutes.
Lasme took over with a power layup early in the second quarter but Cabezas answered from downtown for a 20-20 tie. Unicaja had improved its defense while a coast-to-coast jumper by Kelati restored a 22-20 edge. Velickovic nailed a long two-pointer that Vitor Faverani matched with a layup. Velickovic tied the game again with free throws, 24-24, while Lasme scored around the basket. Carlos Jimenez hit his trademark corner triple while Cabezas fired in his third bomb from downtown, good for a 30-26 Unicaja edge. Tripkovic stepped up with another three-pointer but Ndong dunked it in transition while a jumper by Omar Cook gave Unicaja a 35-29 margin. Partizan kept missing open shot now, while a jumper by Archibald capped a 6-0 Unicaja run. Velickovic took over with a fast break basket that Archibald matched with an acrobatic layup for a 39-31 score. Velickovic scored again and soon added a put-back layup to bring Partizan within 39-35 at halftime.
Jiri Welsch sank a three-pointer immediately after the break but a layup-plus-foul by Lasme kept Partizan within 42-38. Rasic fed Rakocevic for an easy basket and soon added free throws to tie the game at 42-42. Unicaja kept struggling to score while a free throw by Rakocevic completed the guests' comeback, 42-43. Cook took over with a fast break dunk while free throws by Ndong gave Unicaja some fresh air at 46-43. Ndong kept pacing Unicaja with consecutive baskets, as well as leading Unicaja's defense. Meanwhile, a six-meter jumper by Gomis made the guests call timeout at 52-45. Partizan tried to change the game momentum with a more aggressive lineup but Unicaja did not panic. Ndong hit a high-flying hook shot that Welsch followed with free throws to break the game open, 56-45, after a 10-0 run. Lasme sank a floating layup while Velickovic added a fast break basket to bring Partizan back to life, 56-49. A mid-range jumper by an unstoppable Ndong and a buzzer-beating shot by Lasme fixed the score at 58-51 after 30 minutes.
Lasme provided a highlight with a layup-plus-foul early in the fourth quarter, as Partizan managed to stop Ndong now. Unicaja could not found a new scoring reference until Archibald came off the bench and hit a jump hook. Rasic answered from downtown to bring Partizan back to life, 60-57. Cook nailed a stop-and-pop triple but a fallaway jumper by Lasme kept the guests within 63-59 with over 6 minutes remaining. Lasme scored down low, as Unicaja failed to find open shots now. Partizan missed several chances to tie the game, including free throw attempts by Rakocevic. Even with that, a corner three-pointer by Tripkovic put Partizan back ahead, 63-64. Marcus Haislip quickly scored in the other end, allowing Unicaja to keep a 65-64 edge with 3 minutes to go. Both teams kept missing shots and committing turnovers until a free throw by Tepic tied it at 65-65 with 1:15 remaining. Unicaja forced a 24-second violation but Ndong missed a jumper with 31.6 seconds to go. Cook collected a steal but missed around the basket, while Velickovic took an 18-meter shot instead of attacking the basket. Unicaja got the ball back with 1.8 seconds remaining but Cabezas missed a midcourt shot at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.
Archibald hit a free throw early in the extra period but Tripkovic buried another corner three-pointer to give Partizan a 66-68 edge. Partizan excelled now with a 2-3 zone defense while Rasic also struck from downtown to break the game open, 66-71. Cook missed from downtown while Tepic joined the three-point shootout to break the game open, 66-74, after a 0-9 run. Unicaja needed a miracle comeback and Haislip tried to ignite it with free throws. Jimenez added a three-pointer but Gomis missed a critical fast break layup. Even with that, free throws by Cabezas gave Unicaja some hope, 72-76, with 59.5 seconds remaining. Lasme committed a turnover while a jumper by Ndong got Unicaja even closer, 74-76. Rasic missed from downtown but an offensive rebound by Vesely forced Unicaja to foul on Vesely. He missed his second attempt but Vesely grabbed yet another offensive rebound and sealed the outcome with a free throw, 74-78, with 4 seconds to go, allowing the entire Partizan bench to celebrate a historical road win!
Wednesday, February 25, 2009