Unics climbed atop the Last 16 Group J standings by downing previously undefeated Hapoel Jerusalem 78-71 in Kazan, Russia on Tuesday. Both teams tie for first place in Group J, each with a 2-1 record, and will meet again for pivotal Game 4 in Jerusalem, Israel on February 23. Marko Popovic paced the winners with 26 points on 5-of-10 three-pointers and 7-of-7 free throws. Popovic had 18 points after the break, leading Unics to an important win. Terrell Lyday added 12 while Vladimir Veremeenko had 11 and 10 rebounds while Maciej Lampe pulled down 13 boards for Unics. Dijon Thompson and Kevinn Pinkney each had 13 points for Hapoel, that had 21 turnovers and were outrebounded by 40-32 tonight. Yuval Naimy added 12 while Uri Kokia got 10 for the guests, that led 17-21 late in the first quarter. Sharon Shason gave Hapoel ist last lead, 45-46, soon after the break. A 12-2 run that Igor Zamanskiy put Unics ahead for good, 57-48. Hapoel managed to get within 67-61 midway through the fourth quarter but an unstoppable Popovic struck twice from downtown and kept his temper at the foul lines to make Unics registered a key home win.
Unics had a strong start, as back-to-back dunks by Zamanskiy and Lampe gave the hosts a 4-0 lead. Naimy sank free throws and Pinkney added a layup but Artem Kuzyakin and Lyday kept Unics ahead at 8-4. Naimy kept pacing Hapoel with a triple but Lyday scored in penetration and added a shot from downtown for a 14-9 Unics lead. Thompson scored down low but Veremeenko quickly answered with free throws. Hapoel did not panic, however, a three-point play by Naimy ignited a 1-10 run highlighted by Leo Lyons' jumper for a 17-21 edge. Free throws by Popovic brought the hosts within 19-21 after 10 minutes. Zamanskiy sank free throws early in the second quarter but Shason answered from downtown for a 21-24 Hapoel edge. Popovic stepped up with consecutive three-pointers but a layup by Kokia and another triple by Shason kept the guests as close as 30-29. Saulius Stombergas sank a triple but Thompson dunked it and Kokia put Hapoel back ahead, 32-33. Unics found a go-to guy in Veremeenko, who singlehandedly put his team back ahead, 40-35. Tre Simmons sank a jumper and Pooh Jeter added free throws to keep Hapoel within 40-39 at halftime.
Kokia dunked it immediately after the break, had a big block on Zamanskiy and scored again to give Hapoel a 42-44 edge. Lampe rescued Unics with a layup-plus-foul but Shason soon gave Hapoel its last lead, 45-46. A put-back dunk by Kresimir Loncar ignited a 7-0 Unics run in which Popovic followed his third triple with a layup, good for a 52-46 edge. Simmons and Popovic traded baskets and a triple by Zamanskiy boosted the hosts' lead to 57-48. Pinkney tried to change things with free throws and soon added a jumper to get Hapoel within 59-52 after 30 minutes. Zamanskiy dunked it early in the fourth quarter and Lyday struck from downtown for a double-digit Unics lead, 64-52, making the guests call a much-needed timeout. Naimy scored in transition and Pinkney fed Thompson for a dunk to bring the guests back to life, 64-56. Stombergas nailed a big triple but Simmons and Pinkney brought the guests even closer, 67-61, with under 6 minutes left. Unics improved its defense right when it mattered, making Hapoel go scoreless for more than 2 minutes. Meanwhile, Popovic struck from downtown for a 70-61 lead with 3 minutes left. Hapoel kept trying but Popovic followed free throws with a big triple to seal the outcome.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010