Despite a nervy last ten minutes, Valencia Basket are through to the Eurocup final after a 80-70 success over Lietuvos Rytas.
A fast start from Valencia derailed Rytas’ early gameplan. The Lithuanian side never looked in it from the first quarter, and despite a comeback in the fourth, were well beaten.
Brad Newley and Nik Caner-Medley both scored 12 points for the victors in a balanced scoring effort. Victor Claver, Serhiy Lishchuk and Nando De Colo all hit 10.
“We are happy with the win, we came here to win this championship. For that it was obligatory that we won this first game,” Caner-Medley said afterwards. “Now we have to see who we get for tomorrow. Get some rest and get ready for the final.”
Facing a big 61-48 deficit in the fourth, the Vilnius outfit fought back and with 6:05 left, cut it back to 66-60 thanks to a triple from Steponas Babrauskas. The momentum seemed to have shifted away from Valencia. But the ACB squad calmed the tempo down and with over two minutes remaining, Frenchman De Colo hit a easy two to increase the gap to 12 and silence the Lietuvos Rytas fans once and for all.
One of Valencia’s game plans was to disrupt the movement of key big Jonas Valanciunas. From the get-go, he had a bullseye on his white vest. He was in foul trouble early, and never recovered. The 6’11 center fouled out, scoring just four points in over eight minutes on the floor.
“We knew Lietuvos Rytas was a tough team, aggressive on offensive rebounds and on the pick-and-roll with Valanciunas. We knew we had to stop this. Sometimes you have success and sometimes no,” Valencia coach Velimir Perasovic said.
Two three-pointers in the opening minutes from Rafa Martinez set the tone of the majority of the contest as the Spanish side raced to a 6-2 lead. They then attacked the rim and got their Lithuanian opponents in foul trouble as their lead grew to 20-9 with 2:59 remaining in the first quarter.
Valencia’s advantage ballooned further in the second, as they raced to a 39-23 lead off a dunk from Florent Pietrus but Rytas came back to reduce it to eight points thanks to foul shots from Renaldas Seibutis. With 10 seconds left in the half though, Stefan Markovic scored to give the Spaniards their 42-32 double-digit lead back at the half.
Both teams traded buckets in the third, importantly for Valencia though, they had the lead and they managed to get out to a 51-36 lead thanks to Newley. Valencia looked to of had it wrapped up heading to the fourth.
Babrauskas hit 25 to lead all scorers for Rytas.
“They [Valencia] beat us playing the basketball that we knew they would play. Basically they jumped on us in the first quarter, scored 29 points, shooting very good from three-point distance, shooting a lot of free throws,” Lietuvos coach Aleksandar Dzikic said.