Partizan protects home court against ALBA
Partizan NIS Belgrade bested ALBA Berlin 78-66 behind a spirited team effort at Aleksandar Nikolic Hall in the Serbian capital on Wednesday. The result forged a four-way tie in Group E with Partizan and ALBA Berlin joining AS Monaco and Rytas Vilnius at 1-1. Vanja Marinkovic celebrated his 22nd birthday with 14 points to lead five Partizan scorers in double figures. Jock Landale scored 9 of his 13 in the fourth quarter, Nikola Jankovic posted 11 points and 7 rebounds and Bandja Sy and Marcus Paige netted 10 points apiece. Playmaker Alex Renfroe also played a big role with a club record 12 assists. Martin Hermannsson paced ALBA with 16 points, Rokas Giedrairis scored 11 and Luke Sikma added 10 points and a career-best 8 assists in defeat.
The starting centers got things going with baskets on each team's first possession. Dennis Clifford took the upper hand by drawing a pair of fouls from his Partizan counterpart Landale, who found himself on the bench just 3 minutes into the contest. Renfroe assisted on the hosts first four baskets before knocking down free throws himself for a 10-7 Partizan lead midway through the opening quarter. After Niels Giffey nudged ALBA ahead, Partizan got threes from Paige and Aleksej Nikolic – the latter on the first-quarter buzzer – to lead 19-13 after 10 minutes. The difference was 9 after a three-point play by Rade Zagorac to start the second quarter. Johannes Thiemann helped the visitors close the gap to 5, but Marinkovic took over later in the quarter with a layup and a triple to give Partizan its first double-digit lead, 32-31. Sy stretched the margin to 13 and it settled at 37-28 at halftime following a Giedrairis triple in the final minute of the second quarter. Both teams got it going offensively early in the second half with Hermannsson stepping up for ALBA. Sikma netted free throws and added a put-back that made it 44-41 midway through the third quarter. Sy nailed a triple and Nikolic converted a three-point play as Partizan re-extended its lead to 9 and led 50-43 through three quarters. Jankovic's basket-plus-foul got the arena roaring as Partizan went up by 10. Back-to-back threes by Sy and Marinkovic gave the hosts a 63-49 cushion. ALBA was able to answer, but mostly traded baskets as Partizan remained in control. Hermannsson reeled off 5 straight points to draw ALBA within 65-60 with 3 and a half minutes remaining. Landale threw down a big dunk and converted a three-point play to restore a double-digit margin with 1:33 to play and the hosts held on the rest of the way.
Though his name does not appear among the game's scoring leaders, the poise and passing of Alex Renfroe played a big role in the victory. Renfroe only attempted 2 shots, but tallied a club record 12 assists and committed just 2 turnovers. He jumpstarted the offense with assists on Partizan's first four baskets of the game before nailing free throws for his only points. Renfroe helped keep Partizan in control the rest of the way his series of assists to Jock Landale in the closing minutes put the game on ice.
Patizan collected 9 steals, forced ALBA into 17 turnovers and turned those into 22 points. Conversely, ALBA had 6 steals, forced 14 turnovers and got just 14 points out of them. Both the extra possessions Partizan enjoyed in a close game and the better ratio of points scored off those turnovers made a big difference.
In Round 3 of the Top 16, Partizan remains home to face AS Monaco on Tuesday. The next night, ALBA pays a visit to Rytas Vilnius.
Wednesday, January 9, 2019