Spain: Barca, Baskonia, Unicaja re-start season with wins
The Spanish League end-of-season tournament started on Wednesday evening in Valencia. The 12 teams with the best records when the competition was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic were divided into two groups of six squads each. All teams in each group will face each other once in a round-robin format and the best two squads from each will advance to the semifinals, to be played in a single-game format on Sunday, June 28. The winners will meet for the league championship on Tuesday, June 30. All games will be played behind closed doors at La Fonteta.
In the opening game in Group A, FC Barcelona topped Joventut Badalona 96-92. Nikola Mirotic led the winners with 16 points, Victor Claver added 12 and Cory Higgins and Adam Hanga scored 11 apiece for Barcelona. Conor Morgan paced Joventut with 21 points, Alen Omic scored 14 and Xabi Lopez-Arostegui 12 and Neno Dimitrijevic 10. Barcelona took control early as Claver scored 8 points in a 16-2 start that he capped with his second bomb from downtown. Dimitrijevic and Morgan tried to change things for Joventut and got help from an outstanding Pep Busquets to bring their team within 21-17 after 10 minutes. Joel Parra tied the game at 21-21 early in the second quarter, but Artem Pustovyi scored twice down low, Pierre Oriola added an off-balance basket and Alex Abrines dunked for a 32-24 Barcelona lead. Higgins and Kevin Pangos, in his first game of the season, took over late in the first half to restore a 44-30 Barcelona margin at halftime. Mirotic stepped up after the break as Barcelona boosted its margin to 74-57 late in the third quarter. Albert Ventura and Morgan rescued Joventut, and Lopez-Arostegui added a three-point play that brought his team within 92-90 with 28.0 seconds left. Abrines dunked again and Mirotic iced the win from the foul line.
Unicaja Malaga never trailed en route to a 70-83 victory over Iberostar Tenerife. Adam Waczynski scored 17 points on 4-of-4 three-point shooting to lead the winners, Deon Thompson added 11 points, Axel Bouteille and Volodymir Gerun each scored 10 and Gal Mekel dished 10 assists. Sasu Salin led Tenerife with 15 points, Marcelinho Huertas shined with 11 points and 9 assists and Dani Diez posted 11 points and 11 boards in defeat. Bouteille and Thompson each scored 5 points as Unicaja jumped out to a 5-14 lead. A triple by Aaron White closed the gap to 15-20 after 10 minutes and Georgios Bogris made it a 2-point game early in the second quarter. Unicaja regrouped, Gerun boosted the margin to double figures and the score settled at 32-43 at halftime. Salin heated up to keep Tenerife in the game and free throws by Giorgi Shermadini closed the gap to 52-57 late in the third quarter, which ended 54-62 after a layup by Mekel. Frank Elegar scored twice in a 0-7 run to start the fourth, the lead peaked at 5674 on a Carlos Suarez triple and Tenerife never threatened again.
Wednesday’s nightcap saw KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz outscore Retabet Bilbao 27-49 in the middle two quarters to pull away for a 64-87 victory. Luca Vildoza scored 20 points and dished 5 assists to pace the victors, Jayson Granger tallied 12 points and 5 assists and Achille Polonara added 10 points. Baskonia got 59 points from five players off the bench. Jonathan Rousselle paced Bilbao with 12 points and Ivan Cruz added 11. Bilbao held a small lead for much of the first quarter, which ended tied at 23-23. A free throw by Quentin Serron put Bilbao up 33-27 midway through the second quarter before Ilimane Diop stepped up with 7 points in a 0-12 Baskonia run to finish the half ahead 37-44. Polonara stretched the lead to double figures early in the third quarter and Vildoza, Granger and Zoran Dragic each knocked down three-pointers in a 0-13 run. The lead peaked at 50-80 early in the fourth quarter as Baskonia cruised to victory.
Ulm, Ludwigsburg win openers in German quarterfinals
MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg picked up an 83-87 victory over FC Bayern Munich in the opener of the two-game total-points German League quarterfinals and will have a slender lead going into the second game on Friday. The other Game 1 on Wednesday wasn’t nearly as close with ratiopharm Ulm rolling past Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt 101-61.
Hans Brase scored a career-high 18 points to pace four scorers in double figures for Ludwigsburg, which won for the first time in club history at Audi Dome. Marcos Knight collected 17 points and 11 rebounds, Thomas Wimbush tallied 16 points and Jaleen Smith added 13 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists for the winners. For two-time reigning league champion Bayern, Danilo Barthel scored 20 points, TJ Bray 12 points and Leon Radosevic and Maodo Lo each netted 11 points. Bayern jumped ahead 9-2 with Barthel converting a three-point play. Ludwigsburg got into the game thanks to Brase, who scored 9 points in a 14-1 run for a 10-16 lead. The gap was 15-21 after 10 minutes before Bayern went on a 9-0 surge early in the second quarter to move up 26-23. Bray sparked an 11-5 surge with two three-pointers to lead 42-36 at intermission. A Lo three-pointer helped Bayern increase the advantage to 47-36. Wimbush drained a three-pointer to help Ludwigsburg get within 54-50 and Munich led 65-59 after 30 minutes. A Vladimir Lucic triple had Bayern up 75-69, but Ludwigsburg rushed back into the game with a 2-13 run to go ahead 79-82. Bayern temporarily went ahead, but Smith finished the game with a three-pointer.
In the early game, Dylan Osetkowski led the way with 18 points for Ulm, which would need to be beaten by 41 points by Frankfurt in the second game of the quarterfinals on Friday to be eliminated. Per Guenther added 15 points, Archie Goodwin tallied 14 points and 6 assists, Gavin Schilling collected 13 points and 8 rebounds and Thomas Klepeisz scored 10 in the win. Frankfurt was paced by Yorman Polas Bartolo with 10 points. Derek Willis and Goodwin combined for 14 points as Ulm jumped ahead 6-22. Osetkowski converted a three-point play and Guenther drained a three as the advantage grew to 21 points and it was 15-36 after 10 minutes. Frankfurt was able to score with some regularity early in the second quarter with a three-point play from Gytis Masiulis to make it 25-45, but Ulm reeled off a 0-10 run and the lead was 30-57 at the break. Akeem Vargas knocked down 3 three-pointers as Frankfurt got within 39-64, but Ulm surged even further ahead with a 2-18 run to double its opponent 41-82 with the score 88-46 after 30 minutes. Frankfurt managed a 13-0 run in the fourth quarter but never threatened to cut into the big Ulm lead.