ALBA edges Unicaja in Game 3 thriller
ALBA Berlin clinched a ticket to the 7DAYS EuroCup Semifinals after outlasting Unicaja Malaga 79-75 in the third-and-deciding game of their best-of-three quarterfinals series on Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Arena in the German capital. The hosts trailed by as many as 13 in the third quarter, but rallied with an 11-0 run to close that quarter and had another 9-0 run in the fourth. The game came down to the final seconds and Rokas Giedraitis came through with a key basket with 14.2 seconds left and a steal on Unicaja's next possession to help snatch the win. Peyton Siva paced ALBA with 15 points and 10 assists, Giedraitis and Luke Sikma netted 14 points apiece and Joshiko Saibou and Martin Hermannsson each scored 10. Mathias Lessort posted 18 points and 6 rebounds and Sasu Salin scored 17 on 5-of-8 three-point shooting in defeat.
Lessort took charge early with 7 straight points to lift Unicaja to a 4-10 lead. ALBA answered with a 7-0 run to regain the lead on a Saibou triple. Salin's second three-pointer of the game evened the score at 18-18 after 8 minutes. Siva free throws gave the hosts a 23-21 edge at the end of the first quarter. The score stayed close in the second quarter with Unicaja regaining the lead at 27-28 on a Dani Diez layup midway through the quarter. Giedraitis's triple gave ALBA a two-possession lead only to see Unicaja end the half with a 0-7 spurt to make it 36-39 on Carlos Suarez's buzzer-beating putback. Even though Lessort scored first in the second half, ALBA soon tied the game at 41-41 on a three by Sikma. ALBA had no answer for Lessort, who muscled Unicaja to a 46-50 lead. Salin nailed his fourth and fifth threes before Giorgi Shermadini – who came in for Lessort – scored from the line and in the paint as part of a 0-9 push for a 50-62 Unicaja advantage. ALBA forced a turnover and Niels Giffey nailed a triple, which prompted a timeout by Unicaja at 56-64. Saibou nailed a three, but soon after had to helped of the floor with a leg injury. Tim Schneider's buzzer-beating triple capped an 11-0 run that ended the third quarter with ALBA within 62-64. Shermadini scored twice more thanks to passes from Ryan Boatright and added a key defensive block as Unicaja remained in front. Back-to-back-to-back triples by Giedraitis, Siva and Sikma changed everything as ALBA took a 74-73 lead with 3 minutes to play. Giedraitis scored a key layup with 14 seconds to go and after Salin missed from deep, Sikma iced the game from the line.
Rokas Giedraitis had a big role late for ALBA with a three-pointer that started a 9-0 run to recapture the lead. He somehow rebounded his own miss and scored with 14.2 seconds left to put the hosts up 5 and then he stripped Mathias Lessort after the latter took an offensive rebound. Thanks to his play, ALBA took the ball and Luke Sikma was fouled and sealed the win from the free throw line.
ALBA won the battle of the boards 39-26, including 18 offensive rebounds, which it converted into 16 second-chance points. The home team also made 13 of 28 three-pointers (46.4%), while Unicaja struggled from deep and shot just 8 for 32 (25.0%). Dragan Milosavljevic and Dani Diez were each 0 for 4 from downtown and Brian Roberts made just 1 of 7.
Aito's fourth semifinal
The 2014-15 EuroCup Coach of the Year, Aito Garcia Reneses is about to compete in the EuroCup Semifinals for the fourth time with his third different club. He led DKV Joventut Badalona to the 2008 crown. Aito later reached the finals with Herbalife Gran Canaria in 2015 and returned to the semifinals a year later with the same team. He has a record of 90-43 as head coach in the EuroCup.
ALBA will enjoy home-court advantage in the semifinals, which will begin on its home court on Tuesday. ALBA will face either LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne or MoraBanc Andorra in the next stage. Unicaja's participation in the 2018-19 EuroCup has come to an end.
Wednesday, March 13, 2019