Popovic gives Zalgiris maiden Top 16 road win 0

Marko Popovic sank 3 free throws with no time on the clock in overtime to lead Zalgiris Kaunas over Brose Baskets Bamberg 88-87 at Stechert Arena on Thursday night.

It was a thrilling game throughout and Bamberg seemed on track for its first Top 16 win when Anton Gavel sank free throws with 16 seconds left to put the German champs in front, but Gavel went from hero to goat when he fouled Popovic on the game’s final play. The win lifted Zalgiris to 3-4 in Top 16 Group E, which is good for a tie for fifth place and one victory out of fourth.

Popovic paced the Lithuanian champs with 21 points, while Ksistof Lavrinovic netted 16, Rimantas Kaukenas 14 and Darjus Lavrinovic 11 for the visitors, who outrebounded Bamberg 27-38.

Gavel paced Brose Baskets with 25 points, Sharrod Ford scored 20, Philipp Neumann 13 and Casey Jacobsen 11, but the team’s leading scorer this season, Bostjan Nachbar, was a non-factor in part due to foul trouble and finished without a basket and with just 3 points.

First quarter:Offensive rebounds help Zalgiris take early lead

Zalgiris coach Joan Plaza replaced Ksistof Lavrinovic with twin brother Darjus Lavrinovic in the starting five alongside Oliver Lafayette, Tremmell Darden, Paulius Jankunas and Popovic. Bamberg coach Chris Fleming trusted the same starting line-up with Maik Zirbes, Ford, Gavel, John Goldsberry and Jacobsen. Darden and Jankunas scored inside to start the game 0-4. Gavel converted a layup to get Bamberg on the scoreboard. After Popovic and Ford swapped three-pointers, Kaunas began to show its advantage on the offensive glass. Darjus Lavrinovic put back an offensive rebound and hit the and-one for a 5-10 lead. And Popovic nailed his second three after Ford failed to control a defensive rebound for a 7-13 Zalgiris lead. Jacobsen answered with a three before a Ksistof Lavrinovic offensive rebound and put back made it 12-17. Gavel drilled a big three as the shot clock was winding down and Daniel Schmidt made a driving layup to even the game at 17-17. Lafayette made 2 foul shots and Mindaugas Kuzminskas dunked home another offensive rebound as the guests moved back ahead 17-21. Neumann came off the Bamberg bench for a three-point play in the lane before Kaukenas drained 2 free throws for a 20-23 Zalgiris lead after one quarter.

Second quarter: Bamberg moves ahead with 9-0 run, visitors respond

Kaunas grabbed another offensive rebound to start the second quarter and Ksistof Lavrinovic made Bamberg pay with a three-pointer to push the lead to 20-26. Goldsberry answered with a triple from the left corner and Neumann dunked on the break to cut the margin to 25-26. Ksistof Lavrinovic nailed another triple from the right wing for a 25-29 Kaunas lead. Bamberg employed an effective zone defense and Zalgiris could not solve it, allowing for the hosts to go on a 9-0 run with AJ Ogilvy scoring 4 points and Gavel converting a three-point play for a 34-29 Bamberg lead. Darjus Lavrinovic ended the drought with a jumper and Popovic and Adas Jusekevicius both made layups to even the game at 35-35 before Kaukenas knocked down all 3 free throws after a foul for a 35-38 Zalgiris lead. Gavel’s free throw trimmed it to 36-38 at the break.

Third quarter: Kaunas gets slight lead

Neither team could score in the early part of the third quarter with three minutes passing until Zirbes’s power move inside evened the game at 38-38. Gavel’s free throws made it 40-38. Jankunas converted a three-point play to put Zalgiris back ahead. Gavel answered with a three-point play of his own and then 2 free throws for a 45-41 Bamberg lead. Darjus Lavrinovic scored inside and Popovic tied the game at 45-45 with foul shots. Bostjan Nachbar fouled Darden and was charged with a technical foul, resulting in 2 Darden free throws, 2 Popovic foul shots for the technical and then Darjus Lavrinovic had 2 free throws on the ensuing possession for a 47-52 Kaunas lead. Neumann scored inside for Bamberg’s first basket in four minutes. Kaukenas put back an offensive rebound to increase the Kaunas advantage to 49-55, but Ford and Jacobsen knocked down three-pointers from the right wing to trim the deficit to 55-57 after three quarters.

Fourth quarter: Bamberg rallies to force overtime

Kaukenas started the fourth quarter with a triple to make it 55-60. Neumann and Mario Delas swapped jumpers and Ford’s layup trimmed the margin to 59-62. But Ksistof Lavrinovic and Darden sandwiched triples around a Ford put-back for a 61-68 Kaunas lead with less than six minutes to play. A Bamberg timeout did not help as Ksistof Lavrinovic knocked down another triple from the top of the key to make it a 10-point game, 61-71. Jacobsen came back with a three of his own and Nachbar converted two foul shots to make it 66-71. Kaukenas knifed through the Bamberg defense for a layup but Neumann scored inside and Bamberg grabbed the offensive rebound on the missed and-on foul shot with Ford’s jumper cutting the margin to 70-73 before Karsten Tadda’s baseline jumper made it 72-73 for a Kaunas timeout with just more than two minutes to play. After both teams failed to score, Lafayette nailed a triple to push the lead back to 72-76. Gavel evened the game at 76-76 with 4 free throws on a foul and technical foul on Darjus Lavrinovic with less than a minute to play. On the ensuing possession, Bamberg turned over the ball but got the ball right back on a Kaunas turnover with 40 seconds left. Ford missed a jumper with 20 seconds to play but Kaukenas missed a floater in the lane with 2 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.

Overtime: Game decided after the buzzer

Ford opened the extra session with 2 foul shots, but Popovic came back the other way with a three-pointer and then hit a layup before Delas and Robertas Javtokas each split free throws for a 78-83 Zalgiris lead. But Ford made one free throw and then a three-pointer to cut the gap to 82-83 with less than two minutes to play. And then Gavel converted a three-point play with 52 seconds left for an 85-83 lead. With 32 seconds left, Ksistof Lavrinovic tied the game with two free throws before Gavel went to the line with 16 seconds left and made both foul shots to make it 87-85. Zalgiris had the ball for the last shot, gave it to Popovic, who was fouled shooting a three on the buzzer, awarded 3 free throws with no time left on the clock, and he made all 3 for the win.