The Euroleague's all-time leading scorer erupted at just the right time to lead Zalgiris into the Top 16 with a 74-83 road win over Union Olimpija in Group A on Thursday. A couple other teams were happy, too, as the Zalgiris victory assured that Tau Ceramica and Olympiacos also advanced to the next round. All three and Montepaschi Siena have 7-4 records and are tied for second place in the group. Olimpija fell to 3-8. Marcus Brown took over the game with 11 points - including 3 consecutive three-pointers - in a 0-16 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters and decided the outcome for Zalgiris. Remarkably, Brown had been scoreless until then, but finished with 22 points to lead all scorers. Jonas Maciulis followed with 14 points, Goran Jurak 13 and Marko Popovic 12 for the winners. Olimpija, which had taken its first lead shortly before Brown's explosion, could not buy a basket most of the game and thus could not win for new head coach Aleksandar Dzivic. Maurice Bailey had 15 points for the hosts, Marko Milic and Ronell Taylor 13 each, while Jasmin Hukic chipped in 10.
Neither team found the basket until Milic's one-handed put-back opened the scoring. The drought continued until Jurak downed a corner jumper against his old team to make it 2-3 with almost 4 minutes played. Olimpija then suffered a five-miss possession before Jurak downed an alley-oop fastbreak. Milic made it 4-5 at the foul line, but Maciulis answered with a layup and post-up basket for Zalgiris. Hazan Rizvic hit a triple and Milic converted a steal for a 9-9 tie, but Jurak again stepped up with a long-range bomb to keep Zalgiris ahead. Collins hit free throws and Eurelijus Zukauskas got loose for a fastbreak dunk to make it 9-16 and force Dzivic's first timeout as Olimpija coach. Nonetheless, the hosts kept missing and Popovic's layup at buzzer let Zalgiris double Olimpija on the board, 9-18, after 10 minutes.
Goran Dragic fired up the crowd with a steal and basket to start the second quarter. When Milic added a post-up bank shot, Miha Zupan free throws and a put-back rebound, Olimpija was suddenly within 17-18. But Maciulis had other ideas and followed a triple with a bank shot for Zalgiris before Zukauskas dunked to make it 19-25. Bailey, Dragic and Zupan kept Olimpija as close as 23-26, but Collins drilled a triple in response. Olimpija played pinball with its possessions until Hukic's turnaround and a fastbreak layup made it 27-29. An intentional foul call and triple by Popovic let Zalgiris go up 27-32, but Bailey's three-point play let Olimpija get within 30-34 at the break.
Bailey got Olimpija even closer with the second-half's first basket, but Zukauskas answered with a three-point play. Boris Gorenc's first points in an Olimpija uniform made it 35-37, and then Milic tied it with a put-back of another four-shot possession. Taylor brought the crowd to its feet with the go-ahead steal and layup, which came with a free throw to make it 40-37, Olimpija's first lead all game. The Zalgiris backcourt trio of Brown, Popovic and DeJuan Collinis had just 9 points combined until then. Meanwhile, Gorence added a jumper to the lead, but Maciulis matched it and Popovic hit a free throw to make it 42-41. Brown's first points all night, on a runner in the lane, put Zalgiris back in front, and then he curled off a screen for a triple, stole and buried another from downtown on the buzzer as Zalgiris suddenly was in full charge again, 42-49, after 30 minutes.
Brown wasn't done. He opened the final quarter burying a third consecutive triple from the corner. When Collins stole and layed up, Zalgiris had a 0-16 run and a 42-54 lead. Olimpija's crowd was now silent throughout their team's timeout. Bailey ended Olimpija's drought, but Brown drove now for a basket. Brown was back at the foul line soon for 2 free throws and fed Paulius Jankunas for a basket before driving again for what was now 17 points in under 5 minutes. He still wasn't done: an intentional foul on Dragic got Brown 2 more free throws to make it 49-64 with under 7 minutes left. Neither was Olimpija giving up. Taylor converted a three-point play and Dragic a fastbreak layup to make it 54-64. Brown hit a running hook, but Hukic downed a triple to lower the difference to single digits, 57-66. Antoher Brown free throw and a miss that was put back by Jankunas spelled the beginning of the end at 57-70. The Zalgiris lead peaked at 60-76 before Olimpija made a 10-0 run, but it proved too late as Popovic reappared with 6 points down the stretch to seal his team's ticket to the Top 16.
Thursday, January 10, 2008