Zalgiris is first team to four wins after holding off Milan
Zalgiris Kaunas remained undefeated after beating EA7 Emporio Armani Milan 92-87 in front of packed Zalgirio Arena on Thursday. For the first time in history, the Lithuanian champions opened the Turkish Airlines Euroleague season with a 4-0 record and now hold a firm lead in the Group C standings, while Milan dropped to 2-2. The visitors hit 8 three-pointers in the first half and led by as many as 8 points, but Zalgiris used a 10-0 run in the third to regain the lead. In a seesaw battle - which features six lead changes and two ties in the fourth quarter alone - Zalgiris managed to go up 89-84, but had to survive Armani’s 5 offensive rebounds on the same possession to hold on to the lead and eventually secure the victory from the free throw line. Oilver Lafayette led the victors, scoring 15 of his 17 points in the first half, while Ibby Jaaber netted all 11 of his points in the third and fourth quarters. Ksistof Lavrinovic finished with 10. Keith Langford finished with game-high 24 for Milan, Malik Hairston added 21 and Antonis Fotsis and Alessandro Gentile each scored 11 in defeat.
First quarter: Langford and Hairston put Milan in control early
The opening minute featured a three-pointer on each side, Lafayette hit one for the hosts and Hairston answered for Milan. Darjus Lavrinovic drained another triple to make it 6-3, but Hairston hit a jumper and Langford added a drive and a triple to give visitors a 6-10 advantage after three minutes. Fotsis extended the lead to 7 before Darjus Lavrinovic stopped the visitors’ run with a layup. Langford drove to the hoop making it 8-15, but Trammell Darden scored on a fast break and Lafayette hit a long jumper to make it a 3-point game. However, Omar Cook and Alessandro Gentile went for back-to-back fast-break layups to put the visitors back in control. The crowd went crazy after Marko Popovic’s alley-oop pass to Darden and Mindaugas Kuzminskas’s put-back cut the lead to 17-20. Milan extended its lead with a pair of free throws and a fast-break dunk from Hairston before Nicolo Melli’s buzzer-beating three-pointer made it 20-27 after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Armani holds off Zalgiris’s advances
Richard Hendrix split free throws and threw down an easy dunk for the visitors’ first 10-point lead, 20-30, to start the second quarter. Kuzminskas hit 2 free throws before Langford drove for a layup on the other side. Ksistof Lavrinovic hit a triple and Kuzminskas dunked to cut the deficit in half. After a Milan timeout, Paulius Jankunas made it a 3-point game once again, but Fotsis drained a triple to give the visitors more breathing room. Lafayette drove for an easy layup only to see Langford hit another triple to make it 31-38 midway through the second quarter. With offenses ruling the game, Popovic scored his first points of the game with a layup. Lafayette added a three, but Gentile answered with a triple of his own, followed by Lafayette making a tough floater and Langford hitting a tough jumper. After Darjus Lavrinovic free throws, Fotsis hit yet another triple for 40-48 lead. After a timeout, Zalgiris went on a 6-0 run with Lafayett hitting a triple and Darden scoring from underneath with a minute remaining, but Fotsis’s put-back dunk left Milan in the lead and Darjus Lavrinovic and Hairston each split free throws for a 47-51 halftime score.
Third quarter: Zalgiris takes a lead with 10-0 run
Shots from downtown opened the third quarter, Cook hit a three-pointer to extend the margin to 47-54, but Kaukenas replied with a three of his own. Jankunas added a basket-plus-foul making it a 1-point affair and Jaaber score in the low post to give Zalgiris its first lead of the second half, 55-54. Zalgiris visibly stepped up on defense and Kaukenas continued the run with a reverse layup. Milan was without a basket for four minutes before Hairston hit an open triple from the left corner to tie the game at 57-57. Ksistof Lavrinovic hit 2 free throws for Zalgiris, but Hairston scored in traffic to tie the game again. However, Darden nailed a jumper and Ksistof Lavrinovic hit couple more free throws making it 63-59. Jaaber’s coast-to-coast layup gave Zalgiris its first 6-point lead. Ioannis Bourousis scored his first points of the game to cut it to 4 points, but Kaukenas made it 67-61 with another driving layup. After 2 free throws from Hairston, Zalgiris went up by 7 with a runner-plus-foul from Popovic. Bourousis scored from close range with 11 seconds remaining in the quarter, but Jeff Foote beat the buzzer on the other end to make it 72-65 at the end of three quarters.
Fourth quarter: Zalgiris smiles after frantic finish
The visitors opened the fourth quarter in familiar fashion, with a three-pointer from Gentile, while Hairston made a layup high off the glass to make it a 2-point game. Ksistof Lavrinovic hit a jumper to score first Zalgiris’s points of the quarter after two minutes, but Langford hit a triple and Bourousis scored a layup to put Milan up 74-75 with seven minutes to go. Popovic made an uncontested layup for Zalgiris to regain the lead, however Hairston responded with another one of his driving layups. Jankunas scored in traffic to continue the seesaw battle. Gentile hit a second-chance triple to make it 78-80. Jankunas tied the game with a layup, before Gentile committed an unsportsmanlike foul on Jaaber with 4:46 remaining, which allowed the hosts to go in front 82-80. Langford hit a long jumper for another tie, but Jaaber scored inside and then followed it up with a triple to give Zalgiris 87-82 lead. Melli scored a layup, but missed the additional free throw, and Popovic answered with uncontested layup to keep the margin at 5 points. Langford kept Milan close with a pair of free throws, and a couple of turnovers from Popovic and Jankunas gave the visitors a chance. On the following possession Milan grabbed 5 offensive boards, but Cook only split free throws, Hairston missed both shots from the charity stripe and Melli and Langford both missed three-pointers to allow Zalgiris to keep 89-87 advantage with 32 seconds on the clock. Ksistof Lavrinovic hit 1 of 2 free throws and left 21.4 seconds for Milan’s final possession, but Langford missed a triple and Lafayette sealed the win with 2 free throws.
Thursday, November 1, 2012