Defending champion Kinder Bologna picked up where it left off last season, with a dominant, resourceful and above all intense opening night victory in the 2001-02 Euroleague. Playing before a packed house at home in Palamalaguti Arena, Kinder took care of visiting Zalgiris Kaunus of Lithuania with a 90-54 Group B blowout. A full-score performance by Emanuel Ginoboli put Kinder way ahead in the first half against a Zalgiris team that was without its new leader, Arvydas Sabonis, but nonetheless is a dangerous team under normal circumstances. But when Kinder's play comes together, nothing is normal in the way Ettore Messina's troops can take control of a game on either end of the court. Ginobili had 20 points playing little more than half a game. Steve Woodberry had 19 for Zalgiris, which led early but soon saw handcuffs put on its outside shooters.
Zalgiris started with a pair of three-pointers by Dainius Salenga that took advantage of two defensive mistakes by Kinder. Zalgiris had the chance to hush Palamalaguti by leading 12-14 after 6 minutes. But Kinder struck back with force, an 9-0 run based on 6 points by Ginobili, who was just warming up. Zalgiris responded with a matchup defense and looked to Steve Woodberry on offense. The combination enabled the visitors to stay within 24-21 at the end of 10 minutes. The closeness wouldn't last for Zalgiris, however. Kinder combined its resourceful offense and take-no-prisoners defense to rip off a 17-4 run over 7 minutes.
Ginboili showed all his talent and thrilled the crowd with an incredible lay up that drew a third foul on center Grigory Hiznjak, the best Zalgiris rebounder. Ginobili and Marko Jaric were the key in defense, with steals that started the fastbreaks. Jaric stung Zalgiris' 2-3 zone defense on its very first try with a rainbow triple. Alessandro Abbio added to the defensive effort, challenging the open threes Zalgiris had seen earlier, while Alessandro Frosini controlled the boards. Ginobili's dunk made it 45-27, and for good measure, Matjaz Smodis beat the buzzer with a three-pointer for a 49-32 Kinder lead.
With Kinder in control of the game, Kinder coach Ettore Messina rested Ginobili, who had 14 points already, for half of the third quarter. It didn't matter. Except for some supsect foul shooting - 12 for 26 - Kinder could do little wrong. Rebounding, running and and fighting each possession, the lead lengthened bit by bit. Only Woodberry, working inside, was consistent for Zalgiris. Hiznjak had problems against Rashard Griffith and the Kinder perimeter defense just shot down the visitors' shooters as the lead hit 67-46 after the third quarter. Kinder could have coasted, but it turned it on for a 23-8 final quarter, something for Zalgiris to remember the next time they meet.
Thursday, October 11, 2001