Unics took a step closer to reaching the ULEB Cup title game for the first time in club history by edging Real Madrid 76-69 in Kazan, Russia, in the first leg of the home-and-away semifinal series on Tuesday night. Unics takes a 7-point lead into the return leg, which takes place in the Spanish capital next Tuesday. Darjus Lavrinovic led the winners with 17 points and 3 blocked shots, while twin brother Ksystof Lavrinovic had 14 points and 9 rebounds as Unics dominated the paint. Jerry McCullough added 15 and 7 rebounds for the hosts. Charles Smith led Madrid with 26 points on 6-of-6 two-point shooting, while Felipe Reyes added 22 and 8 rebounds. Unics used outstanding defense and good shot selection to break the game after halftime. Three-pointers by Chikalkin and Ksystof Lavrinovic, as well as an active Jarod Stevenson, allowed Unics to build a 72-52 margin with 4 minutes to go. Smith, Reyes and Kerem Tunceri fueled the Madrid comeback, erasing most of its deficit and setting up a big showdown for the second leg in Madrid, in what promises to be one of the most exciting games in European basketball this season.
McCullough opened the scoring with a basket in the low post, which Blagota Sekulic erased with a tip-in. Darjus Lavrinovic took over with a turnaround jumper, but Smith answered from downtown to give Madrid its first lead, 4-5. Jarod Stevenson stepped up with a layup-plus-foul and after Reyes scored at the other end, Saulius Stombergas hit a fade-away jumper for a 9-7 Unics lead. Reyes continued to pace Madrid with a jump hook and Smith added a driving basket, but free throws by Yahor Meshcharakou tied the game at 11-11. McCullough fired in one downtown and Ksystof Lavrinovic scored in the paint, but Sekulic and Smith kept Madrid in the game at 16-15. A red-hot McCullough hit another triple and Darjus Lavrinovic added a put-back basket, but Smith buried another three-pointer and Kerem Tunceri followed with a driving layup to get Madrid within 21-20. Free throws by Stombergas fixed the score at 23-20 after 10 minutes.
Smith continued to lead the Madrid charge with a driving layup, but the hosts improved their defense early in the second quarter, refusing to allow any close shots. Ksystof Lavrinovic rescued Unics with a three-pointer and this brother Darjus added a close basket during an 8-0 run that Sergei Chikalkin capped with one from downtown, causing Madrid to call timeout at 31-22. The visitors opted to attack the basket and got to the line often. Reyes hit free throws, but the Lavrinovic brothers controlled the boards. Madrid was limited to 4 points in 6 minutes until Smith hit an off-balance jumper. Dusko Savanovic scored inside off a steal to make it a 9-point game. Madrid committed 4 consecutive turnovers, but Reyes and Bullock hit free throws after a Unics timeout to get the guests within 36-29 at halftime.
Once again McCullough got Unics going with a layup only to see Reyes match at the other end. However the Real big man soon picked up his third foul. Stevenson provided a highlight with a big dunk as Madrid kept struggling to score. A turnover allowed Darjus Lavrinovic to give Unics a 12-point lead. Axel Hervelle hit one from downtown before Darjus Lavrinovic and Reyes traded free throws. Ksystof Lavrinovic stepped up with a put-back basket and Stombergas scored in transition to keep Unics ahead, 48-37. McCullogh buried his third triple as Madrid opted to switch to zone defense. Reyes followed a layup with a second-chance basket, but Ksystof Lavrinovic beat the shot-clock buzzer with a jumper and Meshcharakou added a turnaround shot for a 55-41 Unics lead. Smith and Chikalkin traded three-pointers and Reyes hit free throws. Chikalkin buried a running triple before a free throw by Raul Lopez got Madrid within 61-47 after 30 minutes.
Madrid kept going to Reyes early in the fourth quarter, as he hit free throws on Darjus Lavrinovic's fourth foul. Unics went scoreless for 2 minutes, but its defense allowed the hosts to stay ahead. Darjus Lavrinovic followed a jumper with free throws and Stevenson capped a 6-0 Unics run with a layup to give Unics its biggest lead yet, 67-49. Sekulic hit one from downtown to get Madrid, but Ksystof Lavrinovic buried one too after a Madrid timeout and Stevenson added a fast break layup to make it a 20-point game with 4 minutes to go. With its season on the line, Real needed to regroup and Kerem Tunceri stepped up, joining the three-point shootout and igniting a 0-8 run, which Smith capped with a driving basket, forcing Unics to call timeout at 72-60. Darjus Lavrinovic nailed a triple, but Smith answered with a layup-plus-foul and
Tuesday, March 13, 2007