Caja Laboral dominated Partizan 87-71
With a commanding performance in the last regular season game, Caja Laboral stormed into second place in Group A by overwhelming Partizan mt:s Belgrade 87-71 at home in Vitoria, Spain on Thursday. Its third consecutive victory let Caja Laboral finish with a 5-5 record, tied for second place with Partizan and Zalgiris Kaunas, which had lost earlier on Thursday. Those teams were all tied 2-2 in games against each other, but Caja Laboral owned the better overall points difference to take second place, while Partizan dropped to fourth. With the help of just-signed big man Pape Sow, Caja Laboral broke open a close game just before halftime and continued adding to the lead the rest of the way. Mirza Teletovic led the winners in scoring with 17 points, all in the second half, despite not making any three-pointers a week after he tied the Euroleague record with 9. Fernando San Emeterio and Brad Oleson followed with 17 points. Sow came off the bench for 13 points and 5 rebounds, while Stanko Barac scored 11. For Partizan, Jan Vesely scored 17 points and Nathan Jawai 13, while James Gist posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Overall, however, Caja Laboral won the rebounding war by 39 to 27, with Oleson's 7 leading his team.
Oleson needed two attempts to make the first bucket of the night, but when it came it was a three-pointer that gave Caja Laboral an early lead. Rasko Katic answered with an uncontested layup followed by a nice streak by Vessely, who scored 6 points in a row to bring Partizan up 5-8 after three minutes. The hosts improved their defensive performance, looking for a quick reaction, and it worked fine. Partizan remained scoreless for the following three minutes, allowing Laboral to get back to the right track led by its backcourt. Oleson and Marcelinho Huertas made it 11-8 midway through the first quarter, as Barac went for a three to bring the fans to their feet. Gist answered from downtown too to stop the visitors’ drought before the game went for the first timeout of the night with four minutes remaining in the quarter. Huertas and Teletovic had back to-back air-balls for Laboral after the break, but Partizan was unable to finish the comeback because of a poor offensive performance. It was the latest addition of the hosts, Sow, who found the net from the line and made it a 5-point game with two minutes to go. Sow kept rocking, becoming the go-to-guy for Laboral. He repeated from the free throw line and scored again off the offensive rebound to reply to a Petar Bozic three-pointer and retain a short edge. Gist, after a short rest, finished a great spin move with a layup to reduce the margin to 3, but Sow capped a great first period with a short jumper to set the score at 21-16 after 10 minutes.
David Logan and Vesely exchanged back-to-back three pointers right after the break, but they were just an oasis in a desert as both teams wasted following offenses. Laboral tried from the perimeter, missing every three-point attempt, while Partizan bet on its frontcourt, but with no outcome. Jawai took over for the guests, drawing 2 fouls in row from Sow to send him to the bench. Jawai converted all of his free throws, keeping the guests at a reachable distance, 27-23. Barac answered from the line too, but Bozic came up big with a deep triple to reduce the margin again to 3 points. Partizan had a chance to make it even tighter, but a turnover and a missed three pointer turned into a short 4-0 run for a 33-26 Laboral lead. Partizan didn’t panic, though, as Katic led the reaction with back-to-back buckets to prevent Laboral from escaping too early. Unfortunately for the visitors, Katic’s effort wasn’t enough, as Sow scored acrobatically followed by a basket-plus-foul play by Oleson to raise the score to 38-30 entering the last minute. The gap got even wider later thanks to a buzzer-beating three-pointer by San Emeterio, who closed the first half with Laboral comfortably settled on a 41-30 lead.
Laboral did its best to try to break the game right after intermission, led by Teletovic and Huertas, who scored back-to-back mid-range jumpers to make it a 15-point game. Partizan looked for Jawai inside in an attempt to draw as many fouls as possible from the Caja Laboral frontcourt. The Australian center converted a fade-away jumper, but Teletovic and Barac replied almost immediately for a solid 48-32 lead. Things got even worse for Partizan, as Bozic had to leave the court after committing his fifth foul to stop another Laboral fast break. Without a consistent perimeter threat, Partizan’s offense was limited to what Jawai could produce. On the other side, Teletovic found his momentum and kept providing points inside, drawing fouls and converting free throws. As such, the margin increased to 20 points midway through the third quarter. The hosts felt comfortable, controlling the boards and launching fast offenses to keep Partizan under control. Teletovic, scoreless in the first half, finished the quarter with 13 points, most of them from the free throw line, as Laboral retained a safe margin, 69-49, at the end of the third quarter.
With the outcome no longer in doubt, Laboral could give some playing time to prospect Dejan Musli, even though he barely had an impact as he committed 3 fouls in less than three minutes. Partizan took advantage of that to score inside through Jawai, followed by a three by Gist to make it 73-56 with seven minutes to go. Sow replaced Musli soon to prove that being a veteran is a factor in the Euroleague. He recovered an offensive rebound and scored a layup to awake his team, followed by a corner three by San Emeterio to raise the margin again to over 20 points at the midway point of the quarter. Partizan looked totally broken, unable to score and struggling a lot to control its own board. The guests remained scoreless for the following two minutes until Jawai scored once from the line with Partizan trailing 81-57. A couple of threes by Kecman and Vesely helped Partizan avoid a tougher punishment, followed by a layup off a steal by Jaka Klobucar to make it 85-65 entering the last two minutes. The guests had to face the end of the game with their youngsters, as Klobucar, Dragan Milosavljevic, Bozic and Gist were already fouled out. On the other side, Laboral gave some Euroleague action to reserves like Martin Buesa and Ander Garcia. Dusan Kecman took advantage of the situation to make back-to-back layups, but the story was Caja Laboral, which secured second place in Group A.
Thursday, December 23, 2010