Zalgiris Kaunas set up a big Group A showdown for the regular season's final week by downing Strasbourg 68-73 on the road in France on Thursday. Zalgiris improved to 9-4 in the Group A standings and now ties for the second place with Climamio Bologna, both of them a victory away from Tau Ceramica. Next week, in their regular season finale, Zalgiris hosts Climamio with at least second place on the line. Strasbourg, meanwhile, dropped to 3-10 and is mathematically eliminated from the Top 16. Tanoka Beard led the winners with 17 points. Darjus Lavrinovic added 15 and 4 blocks while Simonas Serapinas had 13 points, including 8 in a 0-12 run late in the third quarter that put Zalgiris ahead for good. Paulius Jankunas grabbed 11 rebounds for the guests. Jeff Greer led Strasbourg with 16 points, his brother Ricardo added 15, John McCord had 13 and Zelly Wesson 12 and 9 rebounds. The loss was Strasbourg's fifth in a row.
Lavrinovic just needed 17 seconds to hit the first three-pointer of the game, right before the game was stopped for 5 minutes due to a problem in one of the baskets. After that, Aymeric Jeanneau got Strasbourg going with a layup but a dominant Lavrinovic had 2 blcoks, made free throws and buried a three from the from the top to send Zalgiris up 4-8. His points ignited a 0-15 Zalgiris run in which Reggie Freeman and Serapinas also stroked from downtown to boost the margin to 4-18 after 7 minutes. Strasbourg went scoreless for almost 6 minutes until Wesson stepped up with a second-chance basket and Sacha Giffa fired in a corner triple. Wesson kept pushing the hosts with another close basket and John McCord beat the shot clock with an incredible three-pointer that helped Strasbourg to cut the difference to 14-20 after 10 minutes.
Beard scored his first points on a put-back to start the second quarter, then added a triple on the next possession for a 16-25 Zalgiris lead. It didn't last long, however, as Boudji Yanci hit a layup and McCord also scored twice around the basket in an 8-0 Strasbourg run that Ricardo Greer capped with free throws that made it 24-25. Beard rescued Zalgiris with free throws, but the Greer brothers combined for 4 quick points to give Strasbourg its first lead, 28-27. Zalgiris called timeout and Paulius Jankunas broke a 14-2 Strasbourg run with a quick layup. Vidas Ginevicius then nailed a three for the guests while Jonas Maciulis capped a 0-7 Zalgiris run which a mid-range jumper for a 30-34 lead. Not to be outdone, Giffa buried his second triple at the buzzer to bring Strasbourg within 33-34 at halftime.
Jeff Greer came back after the break and hit a corner three to put Strasbourg back in front, but only until Ginevicius erased it with his own downtown shot. Lavrinovic keep shining on defense end while Beard added a fastbreak layup for a 36-39 Zalgiris edge. Wesson took over with a put-back layup for Strasbourg and Ricardo Greer added a corner three for a 41-41 tie. After an exchange of baskets, including McCord's second triple, Freeman got his sixth point in a row off a steal that Jeanneau answered with a basket in penetration to get Strasbourg within 47-49. Now, however, Zalgiris shut down Strasbourg with a zone defense while Jankunas scored in the low post to spark a 0-12 run in which Serapinas made triples from each corner among 8 points that vaulted the guests ahead 47-61 after 30 minutes.
Wesson tried to ignite a Strasbourg comeback with a power layup to start the fourth quarter, but no more points came in the next couple of minutes until Ginevicius made a free throw. Jeff Greer shined with a six-meter jumper and his brother Ricardo slashed for a layup to force a Zalgiris timeout at 63-72 with 6 minutes to go. The Greer brothers were on a mission now. Ricardo made 3 of 4 free throws and Jeff added a driving layup to make it a six-point game, 58-64. Lavrinovic silenced the crowd - save for a few Lithuanian fans in the stands - with a three-pointer that Beard followed with a close basket make it 60-69 with 2 minutes to go. Strasbourg used a Jeff Greer triple and 5 free throws to come as close as 68-71 before Lavrinovic dunked to finish the victory for Zalgiris.
Thursday, February 2, 2006