Eurocup. Semifinals. BC Khimki — Bilbao Basket — 79-73 4 april 2009

BC Khimki Moscow region advanced to its first-ever Eurocup final by downing iurbentia Bilbao Basket 79-73 in the second semifinal at the Palasport Olimpico in Turin, Italy on Saturday. Khimki has the chance to win its first Eurocup title in the final against 2005 champions Lietuvos Rytas.

Meanwhile, Bilbao had a bitter end to an incredible debut season in European club competitions. Carlos Delfino paced the winners with 18 points. Vitaly Fridzon added 14, Kelly McCarty had 12 while Jorge Garbajosa got 11 for Khimki. Luke Recker led Bilbao with a Eurocup career-high 21 points. Marko Banic added 15 for Bilbao. Garbajosa struck twice from downtown in an early 13-0 run that made Khimki dominate the game in the early going. Janis Blums and Recker stepped up to bring Bilbao within 26-21 at the end of the first quarter. Khimki kept a safe lead throughout the second quarter but a floating layup by Blums and a big triple by Recker got Bilbao within 40-35 at halftime. A layup by Ronnie Seibutis brought Bilbao even closer, 43-41, but McCarty led an 8-0 run that restored a 51-41 Khimki margin late in the third quarter. Despite trying a 1-3-1 zone early in the fourth quarter, Bilbao did not manage to return to the game. A layup by Maciej Lampe restored a 63-53 Khimki edge with under 7 minutes to go. Javi Salgado buried three late triple to bring Bilbao within 71-67 but Mike Wilkinson and an unstoppable Delfino sealed the outcome down the stretch.

Banic needed 18 seconds to get Bilbao going with a layup but Garbajosa immediately answered from downtown for a 3-2 Khimki edge. Palacio shined with a driving layup before Garbajosa nailed another three-pointer over Sallva Guardia. Bilbao kept missing shots, while Fridzon followed a fastbreak dunk with a corner triple to cap a 13-0 run to put Khimki up 13-2. After Bilbao called a much-needed timeout, Blums fed Banic for a backdoor layup while Seibutis added a fastbreak basket at 13-6 to get the many Bilbao fans in attendance excited. Banic scored again but Fridzon buried his second triple. Seibutis and Garbajosa traded driving layups before Timofey Mozgov restored an 11-point Khimki lead, 21-10. Blums collected a steal and made free throws but Fridzon answered with a big basket. Banic nailed a six-meter jumper while Quincy Lewis scored coming off the baseline to bring Bilbao within 23-16. Delfino provided a highlight with a catch-and-shoot three-pointer but Luke Recker followed a backdoor layup with a buzzer-beating triple to keep Bilbao within 26-21 after 10 minutes.

Mike Wilkinson nailed a corner triple right at the start of the second quarter but a five-meter jumper by Drago Pasalic kept Bilbao as close as 29-23. Bilbao had improved its defense, not allowing Khimki open shots from the corners. Delfino made free throws for Khimki, but Pasalic answered with a dunk at 31-25. Khimki dominated its defensive board while Anton Ponkrashov appeared with a wild fastbreak dunk. Khimki tried an effective 2-3 zone defense, switching to man-to-man often. Lewis found Banic for a layup-plus-free throw that made Khimki head coach Sergio Scariolo call timeout at 33-27. Bilbao switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense but kept struggling to score, esepcially from deep range. Soon, Palacio made a free throw and fed Garbajosa for another long-range strike for a 37-28 Khimki margin. Recker quickly scored in transition while Fridzon beat the shot clock with a put-back layup. Blums shined with a floating layup while Recker struck from downtown to get Bilbao even closer, 40-35, at halftime.

Blums hit another floating layup to make it a three-point game, 40-37, immediately after the break. Banic sank a baseline jumper but a fastbreak layup to get Bilbao within a basket, by Palacio gave Khimki some fresh air at 43-39. Seibutis scored around the basket, again cutting the difference to 2 points, as Bilbao was more aggressive in defense now. Khimki struggled to score until Kelly McCarty buried a corner triple — his first points of the night. Mozgov reappeared with a huge two-handed dunk and proceeded to block or interrupt a series of shots on defense, making Bilbao call timeout at 48-41. McCarty kept pacing Khimki with a power layup coming off the baseline before Fridzon's free throw meant a double-digit lead, 51-41, after an 8-0 run. Bilbao knew how to react, however. Recker scored in penetration, Banic added a tip-in while Quincy Lewis scored a layup off an inbound steal to bring Bilbao back to life, 51-47. Now, Khimki needed a boost, and McCarty provided it with corner three-pointer. An exchange of free throws ensued before Delfino beat Bilbao's zone defense with a seven-meter bomb for a 58-50 score after three quarters.

Bilbao once again tried its 1-3-1 zone defense early in the fourth quarter while at the other end, Recker nailed another three-pointer that cut the difference to 58-53. Khimki had to call timeout to attack Bilbao's switching defenses and Delfino hit one from way downtown for a 61-53 score with 7 minutes remaining. Fridzon dived for a steal that allowed Lampe to get an easy layup, making Bilbao call timeout at 63-53. Delfino — who else? — broke the game open with another three-pointer, as Bilbao tried to twin point guards Salgado and Seibutis to attempt a comback. Banic sank a mid-range jumper while Recker downed a triple to give Bilbao some hope at 68-58. Wilkinson and Salgado joined the three-point shootout, as time was running out for Bilbao. Salgado struck again from downtown to make Khimki call timeout, 71-64, with 2:03 remaining. A red hot Salgado buried another triple to bring Bilbao back to life, 71-67. Just like in the quarterfinals against Pamesa, a put-back basket by Wilkinson sealed the outcome down the stretch, allowing all Khimki fans to celebrate a historical win!

Saturday, April 04, 2009
Javier Gancedo,