Major help from the bench helped Zalgiris Kaunas retain part of first place in Group A with a solid 72-79 win on Thursday at Bamberg, where no other Euroleague team had won this season. Zalgiris, still without superstar center Tanoka Beard, who is injured, raised its record to 4-1, tied with Tau Ceramica for top spot in the group. Bamberg lost its second in a row and is now 2-3. Paulius Jankunas led the winners with 19 points despite leaving the game with an ankle injury for some time. The bench help came from Jonas Maciulis, who had 17 points in 18 minutes, while Darjus Lavrinovic posted 16 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks. Bamberg, in it until the end, got 20 points from Desmond Mallet, 15 each from Robert Garrett and Spencer Nelson, and 10 from Chris Ensminger.
Chris Ensminger started hot, scoring the game's first 4 points over big Darius Silinskis. Zalgiris struggled with ball control early, while Nelson scored on a break-away layup to make it 6-3. Now Zalgiris picked up its defense and at the same time started finding shots. Reggie Freeman's three-pointer made it 8-6, while Silinskis scored a basket in between a pair by Jankunas, the last a reverse layup put the visitors ahead, 6-14. Bamberg's reserves led the charge back - Tim Begley's floater and Garrett's three-pointer setting up a shot from the arc by Mallet that evened the score at 16-16. Nelson made an extra pass to Uvis Helmanis, whose three-pointer gave Bamberg a lead back before Mallet finished an 11-3 run that left the hosts leading 21-17 after 10 minutes.
Jankunas evened things early in the second with free throws for a 21-21 score, but Garrett continued his hot shooting with a layup and three-pointer to make keep Bamberg up 26-23. Even when Mallet's jumper extended the lead to 5 points, Zalgiris stayed close. After Nelson's power drive made it 32-28, Lavrinovic drained a three-pointer to spark a 0-6 run for a 32-34 Zalgiris lead. Nelson took charge for Bamberg, hitting 4 straight free throws as Bamberg retook the lead, 36-34. Maciulis answered off the Zalgiris bench with 5 straight points of his own, but Derrick Phelps hit a layup over Lavrinovic, and Nelson's put-back at the buzzer allowed Bamberg to reach halftime in front by 40-39.
More Nelson free throws opened the second-half scoring and Mallet's three-pointer pushed Bamberg's advantage to 45-41. Jankunas gave Zalgiris the lead back with a three-pointer at 45-46, but then hurt his left ankle and left the game. As Zalgiris kept getting two-pointers, Bamberg stayed in it from the arc as Mallet and Garrett struck from downtown to make it 51-50. After Freeman and Lavrinovic boosted Zalgiris ahead again, 51-55, a three-minute Bamberg drought ended with Mallet hitting yet another from outside. Maciulis hit 4 free throws and Lavrinovic 2 for Zalgiris as the lead bulged to 5 again, 61-56. But Begley grabbed steal and layed it in for Bamberg to leave a 61-58 scoreboard going into the final 10 minutes.
Jankunas came back from the ankle knock and scored his team's first 5 points of the final quarter, pushing the lead back up to 6, at 66-60, with 8 minutes left. After a timeout, Bamberg's defense picked up and Garrett pulled up for a jumper to get the hosts within 66-64. Freeman answered for Zalgiris, with a triple, but Phelps matched that. Lavrinovic's free throws weren't enough for Zalgirs to stay in front as Ensminger shot over him and Mallet drove after a Garrett to tie, 71-71, going into the final minute. Next, Maciulis buried a three-pointer late in the shot clock for a 71-74 Zalgiris lead with 52 seconds remaining. Garrett missed both free throws with 44 seconds left, but Bamberg got the ball back only to see Phelps' driving layup go in and out. Ed Cota kept his nerves and buried both his free throws with 24 second remaining to put Zalgiris up 76-71. Bamberg's free throw woes continued as Nelson made just one of two while Maciulis buried three of four for the final 79-72 score.
Thursday, December 1, 2005