Valencia is struggling this season with a 3-6 record and anytime you get the opportunity to play against the likes of Alexey Shved you know that you’re going to have your hands full all night; and boy were those hands full less than four minutes into the game.
Shved didn’t waste anytime as the perennial all star set the time early on with a pair of free throws and a sleek back door dunk but it wasn’t just Shved. Booker and Jokic got into the act as well to race out to a 18-4 lead. It looked very bleak but then out of nowhere’s Quino Colum went for a layup and one, Brock Motum the Australian international drilled a triple and all of sudden the score was just -6 for Khimki. But then it was Shved time once again as he hit a 3-pointer and a fade away jumper just before the end of the first quarter to to quell the storm and take a 33-26 advantage after ten minutes.
Vanja Marinkovic out of the Partizan Belgrade system and the 60th and final pick of the 2019 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings started the frame with a triple, Mike Tobey who had a cup of coffee with the Charlotte Hornets in 2017 went through the Khimki defense like a hot knife through butter and Motum hit a jumper and what would you know, Valencia pulled to within just two points 35-34 less than two minutes into the second quarter.
For the balance of the frame the squads played cat and mouse with Valencia closing the gap, and Khimki pulling ahead until Jordan Loyd, yes that Jordan Loyd the guy that is seen kneeling next to Kawhi when Leonard to “The Shot” against Philly to hell the Raptors advance in the NBA Playoffs, knocked down a sweet comer triple to give the hosts a 49-48 lead with 40 seconds left in the half which was followed up by a pair of free throws by Bojan Dubljevic as Valencia went into the lorckerroom with a shocking 51-48 lead.
The teams must have not spoken about defense during the break, because there was none to be found early on in the third quarter as both squads scored nonstop in end to end action with barely a foul called. Bertrans scored, Alberto Abalde answered, Jerebko hit a triple, Abalde answered again, but then Dubljevic scored and Shved missed a wild triple as Booker was called for a technical as Loyd hit the single and Dubljevic scored yet again to give Valencia a 64-57 lead midway through the frame.
Dubljevic who is in his 8th season with Valencia is a fan favorite and rightfully so as the Montenegrin was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2013 Draft with the 59th pick immediately scored out of the timeout but Jovic and Jerebko teamed up to bring the deficit back down to just 2 points 66-64. But Marinkovic who had been a bit quiet hit his shot and Guillem Vives the 2014 Spanish Young Player of the year scored a layup to keep Valencia out in front by a pair, 72-70.
Jerebko hit his 4th triple of the night to pull even at 76-76 but the unstoppable Dubljevic scored four straight points to give Valencia a 80-76 lead with five minutes to go in regulation time. Jovic proved to be invaluable for Rimas Kurtinaitis as the guard went off for a quartet of 3’s and 19 points overall and helped keep Khimki hanging around 85-84 with 1:39 to go.
But once again Loyd stepped up a drew an unsportsmanlike foul on Chris Kramer in the final minute. The former Hapoel Eilat guard drained both free throws and on the ensuing possession Dubljevic came up huge again as the veteran put the cherry on top of the comeback with a floater to seal a 89-84 victory to sweep the Euroleague double week at home.
1) I was very happy to have been able to witness such a great game after making the trip down from Barcelona. Of course after a few minutes of play and with Khimki leading 18-4 my thoughts drifted along the lines of, oh great, remind me why I decided to come to this game. But that didn’t last long as Valencia stormed back and cut the lead decisively even heading into halftime in the lead. They say basketball is a game of runs and that was certainly proven correct. How did Valencia do it? Mike Tobey and Brock Motum both told me that it was just a matter of playing team defense, and play it they did. How about a rebounding advantage of 44-34 with 17(!) offensive boards. Now that’s a good place to start.
2) The next place I’d look at is Alexey Shved. From the get go the all world forward began scoring in bundles, but that really didn’t tell the story. How about Valencia closing him down to the tune of 0 second half points, 1/8 from beyond the arc, 1 and assist and 2 rebounds. WHAT!?!? Yes, it’s true. The Valencia team defense did in the all star and that’s not one easy challenge. His many times have we seen Shved just fleece his opponents? Well there was no fleecing tonight.
3) One of the players I kept close tabs on during the game was Vanja Marinkovic. The Sacramento Kings draft pick looked every bit the player the Kings were looking to select. He’s a player as with grit and with guile, a player that has a huge future in front of him and a player who can be a leader down the road. I had the chance to catch up with Marinkovic following the win in which he scored 13 points in 19 minutes while hitting a trio of triples, “The whole team played well. Our defense wasn’t good for the first 5-6 minutes but after that we played team defense and on offense we outran Khimki. This was a big win for us, our third Euroleague win in a row.” I’ll have a full interview with Marinkovic coming out very soon.
Go to give credit to a couple of critical players for Valencia in the win. Quino Colum, the crafty point guard was magnificent in 27 minutes scoring 12 points, dishing out 11 assists while drawing 7 fouls. The other is big man Bojan Dubljevic why went 7/8 from the field to score 18 points, pulled down 7 rebounds and also drew 7 fouls as well. Not a bad days work for those two vets.