Khimki edged Caja Laboral 64-60
An undefeated group leader fell to start Week 3 as Khimki Moscow Region came back with stellar defense to defeat visiting Spanish champion Caja Laboral by 64-60 on Wednesday in Group A. Both teams are now 2-1 and tied at the top of the group with Zalgiris, which also won Wednesday. All three will be joined at 2-1 by the Partizan vs. Maccabi winner on Thursday. Defense did not look like Khimki's strong suit as it fell behind 1-11 to start the game, but from then on, the hosts let up no easy baskets. Keith Langford led the charge for Khimki with 19 points and 4 assists. He was followed by Benjamin Eze with 14 points and 7 rebounds, while Zoran Planinic added 13 points for the winners. Caja Laboral lost its first game despite another strong effort from Fernando San Emeterio, who finished with 18 points. The same went for Stanko Barac, who posted a double-double of 12 points and rebounds.
After his coach spoke before the game of the importance of starting strong, forward San Emeterio took those words to heart, scoring the team's first 7 points as Laboral raced to a 1-11 lead. San Emeterio scored on drives, cuts to the basket and long-distance jumpers before three-pointers by Vitaly Fridzon and Sergey Monya revived Khimki. By the time Eze hit back-to-back baskets, the hosts had completed their own 10-2 run to get as close as 11-13. Only points from Mirza Teletovic and Barac fell after that, however, and Laboral cruised to the end of the first quarter leading 11-17.
Langford tried to push the tempo on offense to make up for his team's cold defensive start and soon was dominating things in the second quarter, breaking down Laboral's defense with constant penetration. But Khimki was unable to get closer than two points before the final minute of the half. As Laboral settled on a more balanced attack featuring low-post moves form Barac and Teletovic's soft touch, the home team kept at it with Planinic directing the offense and allowing Langford to roam free and occasionally crash the offensive boards. An unsportsmanlike foul by Pau Ribas of Laboral became a three-point play after Langford converted a free throw and a layup, cutting Laboral's lead to 27-29. Another fastbreak layup by Langford finally tied the game late, but Laboral still were able to reach the break with a 29-31 advantage as Brad Oleson scored the final bucket on a beautiful fall-away jumper.
Whatever Khimki coach Sergio Scariolo told his players during halftime seemed to work immediately as Eze scored 2 quick baskets, one of them a pretty dunk off a pass from Planinic, to put his team ahead for the first time in the game. But, unfortunately for the home squad, San Emeterio seemed to mirror his first half start with consecutive three-point plays. Khimki was on a roll, however, as Langford and Eze kept combining on pick-and-rolls and got the hosts as close as 43-44 before Marcelinho Huertas hit his first three-pointer for Laboral. As Khimki found defensive answers to Laboral's ball movement, the hosts took off on a 10-0 run, with 4 points each from Langford and Loncar, to seize a 53-47 lead after three quarters.
Caja Laboral tried to claw its way back by double-teaming Khimki's big men in the paint while Langford sat on the bench nursing a left ankle sprain. Planinic stepped into Khimki's scoring void, answering a pretty reverse by Martin Rancik with 7 consecutive points, the last on a three-pointer, that put the hosts ahead 60-51. Laboral stayed in the game as long as its defense held up, but even though Barac and San Emeterio willed baskets to go in during Laboral’s next four possessions, the killer seemed to come on a Fridzon triple with 2 minutes left, restoring a nine-point margin, 63-54. Laboral showed it had life left as Huertas scored on a couple of layups, but ultimately lacked time as Khimki managed the clock well and came away with a game that leaves both teams with equal records in Group A.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010