Zalgiris beat Prokom 93-88
Despite long odds against it, Zalgiris Kaunas showed the pride of a survivor by when it outgunned visiting Asseco Prokom Gdynia 93-88 on Wednesday in Top 16 Group G. The victory gave Zalgiris a 2-3 record, while Prokom fell to 3-2. But the margin was less than the 24 points Zalgiris needed to assure it would stay alive after CSKA visited Unicaja later on Wednesday. A CSKA victory was to mean Prokom would qualify for its first playoffs ever. For the Zalgiris fans, it was just as fun watching veteran Marcus Brown rally his young teammates with 15 of his 23 points in a second-quarter takeover run. Zalgiris did not trail again, because when Prokom rallied from 19 points down in the second half to tie 73-73 with 6 minutes left, Brown returned for a huge triple that guided his team to victory. To his scoring production, Zalgiris added five other double-digit scorers: Mantas Kalnietis, Mirza Begic and Dainius Salenga with 11 points each, Martynas Pocius and Tadas Klimavicius with 10 each. Travis Watson had 9 points and 11 rebounds for the winners. Prokom was led by David Logan with 22 points. Qyntel Woods scored 17, all in the last 13 minutes, while Ratko Varda had 13, Daniel Ewing 11 and Ronnie Burrell 10.
Adam Hyrcaniuk for Prokom and Watson for the hosts got their teams going with inside points, before Ronnie Burrell slammed an offensive rebound and Ewing canned a jumper to put the guests up 5-8. Brown got his first points on a layup before Salenga came up big, saving a loose ball to beat the shot-clock buzzer with a triple. Logan calmly matched it at the other end, however, before Woods fed Varda for a lay-in at 11-14. Zalgiris was getting to the foul line, where Kalnietis and Pocius shared 5 free throws to put the hosts in front, 15-14, before Mario Delas fed Mirza Begic for a slam that prompted a Prokom timeout. A driving layup by Ewing ended the 6-0 run for Zalgiris, steadying the guests, but Pocius returned with his own basket in penetration and Capin capped the quarter with a triple as Zalgiris led 22-18 after 10 minutes.
Logan's triple quickly got Prokom righted to start the second quarter, and after a Begic layup, Jan Jagla also struck from downtown for the guests for a 24-24 tie. Logan got loose for a go-ahead dunk and kept his team ahead until Klimavicius joined the scoring column with a big go-ahead triple for Zalgiris at 29-28. Then, Brown took over with a long-range bomb, a shorter jumper and a driving layup for a personal 7-0 run and a 36-29 Zalgiris lead. Jagla interrupted him with free throws, but Brown returned with a great running hook shot followed by his own foul shots as the lead soared to 40-31. Another Prokom miss led Brown to toss a brillian half-court alley-oop to Kalnietes before he drove himself and scored despite being tripped, bringing the crowd to its feet at 44-31. Brown then drew a charge to cancel a Prokom basket and hit free throws to make it 46-31. Varda ended the 10-0 Zalgiris run by putting back a missed free throw, but Salenga answered with not one, but two fadeaway jumpers in the lane as Zalgiris ruled by 50-34 at the half.
Zalgiris kept rolling into the second half as Klimavicius made a three-point play to threaten a 20-point lead before Logan answered from downtown for Prokom. Klimavicius kept up the pressure with an offensive board and free throws. Burrell fed Hrycaniuk for Prokom's next basket and Ewing added free throws, but another Zalgiris offensive rebound led to Begic to make it 57-43 at the foul line. Ewing answered with a sweet running jumper before Jagla appeared at the top of the circle for a three-point strike that forced a Zalgiris timeout at 57-48. Pocius then stepped up with a basket for the hosts, but Varda answered for Prokom with layup and short jumper at 59-52. After free throws by Delas, Arturas Milaknis appeared in the corner for Zalgiris to change the momentum again with a big triple, restoring a double-digit lead, 64-53. The scoring pace just picked up, however, as Woods awoke with a dunk, a short jumper and a face-up triple. But Watson, Pocius, Kalnietis and Begic kept pace for Zalgiris, which despite a three-point play by Ewing to end the quarter, still led 73-63 after 30 minutes.
Prokom struck first in the final quarter, with Varda at the line and again in the paint quickly lowering the difference to 73-67, the closest that the visitors had had come since the second quarter. Now it was Prokom controlling the inside game, as Woods threw down a monster jam. Prokom went back to him for a baseline jumper to make it 73-71 with 7 minutes left, but his fourth foul came next and Woods had to sit down. Nonetheless, Burrell came up with a big block at one end and drilled a jumper at the other to complete the 19-point comeback at 73-73 with 6 minutes left. Zalgiris needed someone, and that was Brown, who buried a shot from the arc to keep Prokom from taking a lead. Burrell was ready to answer, also from downtown, but then Begic came up big for the hosts, jamming a miss and stealing at the other end. After a timeout, the ball went to Kalnietis for a driving bank shot at 80-76. Next, Klimavicius nimbly put back a Brown miss, which became bigger when Woods drained Prokom's next shot, another triple. To answer that, Kalnietis drove for a layup, and when Salenga stripped Woods and dunked, it was 86-79. Prokom came out of a timeout with 2 minutes left and went to Logan for a layup. A miss by each team sent them into the last minute at 86-81, which is when Brown decided it by splitting defenders, making the layup and the additional free throw at 89-81. Woods was good for another triple, but as Watson dropped both of his free throws Zalgiris fans were celebrating a victory their team's enormous pride in the face of elimination.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010