Khimki Moscow Region finished second in Group J of the Eurocup Last 16 despite closing the round by beating Asvel Basket 79-83 on the road in France. Khimki finished with a 5-1 record, tied for first place with BC Donetsk of Ukraine, but lost the tie-breaker between them due to a lower winning margin in the two victories they split. As such, Khimki will need to win its two-game Quarterfinals against fellow Russian team Lokomotiv Kuban playing the second game on the road if it plans to fulfill its dream of hosting the Eurocup Finals in April as one of the four participants. Khimki, already qualified before the game, played with fire a bit by watching its 25-point lead midway through the third quarter dwindle to 79-82 with seconds to play before Kresimir Loncar ended the suspense at the foul line. Thomas Kelati led the winners with 17 points while hitting 3 of 7 three-point tries. Loncar added 14 points and 5 rebounds in 17 minutes for Khimki, which dominated in every statistical category except free throws and steals. Asvel, which was eliminated from the Quarterfinals before this game, got 22 points each from Kim Tillie, who made 11 of 13 two-point shots, and Dijon Thompson, who shot 9 for 9 at the free throw line.
Loncar had 4 points as Khimki jumped to an early 2-7 advantage. Thompson's free throws kept Asvel as close as 10-14 before Khimki put together another run of 6 unanswered points including a dunk by Sergey Monya to go up double, 10-20, on the scoreboard. After Phil Goss and Kelati hit dueling triples, the first quarter ended with the visitors in charge, 14-23. Kelati stayed hot with twin baskets to open the second quarter as Khimki's advantage shot up to 14-29. Asvel needed more than 4 minutes before Kim Tillie scored its first field goal, then added a dunk at 19-29. Three-pointers by Kelati and Egor Vyaltsev eventually led to a new high lead of 26-44 for Khimki, which Asvel managed to cut by just a free throw before halftime.
Khimki kept up the scoring charge after halftime until reaching a new high lead of the game, 32-56, with a couple shots downed by its own Frenchman, forward Mickael Gelabale. Tillie's next inside baskets woke up Asvel, but not enough to prevent Khimki from staking its true high lead of the whole game, 42-67, on a 5 points shared by Alexey Zhukanenko and Vyaltsev. Thomspon and Paul Lacombe scored the last 6 points of the third quarter, however, as Asvel lowered the difference to 19 points, 48-67. Asvel enjoyed that feeling and immediately picked up its scoring pace. Within 3 minutes at the start of the final quarter, the difference had fallen to 57-71 on 7 more points from Thompson, including his first three-pointer. Khimki brought back Loncar to help stem the tide, but suddenly in the final 3 minutes, Tillie, Edwin Jackson, Goss and Leo Westermann strung together 11 unanswered points in a row to suddenly make it 77-81. When Dmitriy Khvostov made just 1 of 2 free throws for Khimki and Tillie dunked with 8 seconds left, Asvel was a three-pointer from tying, at 79-82. But when Loncar went to the line with 9 seconds left, he hit the second of his free throws to put the game out of reach at 79-83.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012