Friday, February 20, 2009

Spartak Goes to Game 3

Spartak Moscow Region and Ciudad Ros Casares Valencia are headed to a winner-take-all Game 3 next Wednesday in Russia after Ros Casares held on for a thrilling 73-71 victory Friday night in Spain. Trailing by 15 entering the final quarter, Spartak answered with an 11-0 game and would ultimately tie the game. But four unanswered points by Amaya Valdemoro gave the hosts back the lead. Trailing by two, Spartak took over on a rebound with six seconds left and raced the other direction. Sue Bird had the ball knocked away by Laia Palau as the clock expired.

"I think that these two teams are the best in the EuroLeague," said Ros Casares Head Coach Isma Canto. "They play the best basketball in Europe. Our fans created a great atmosphere in the arena and, with this kind of supporters, it is easy to win. Can we win in Moscow? We'll see ... It's very difficult."

Diana Taurasi led Spartak's comeback, scoring 33 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Ros Casares and DeLisha Milton-Jones did a good job defensively on Lauren Jackson, limiting her to 3-of-14 shooting. Jackson had 10 points and seven rebounds, while Bird contributed eight points, five boards, four assists and three steals.

Valdemoro came through with another vintage performance, scoring 21 points, including big buckets down the stretch. She was 9-of-10 from the foul line. Milton-Jones added 16 points and eight rebounds.

I'm tempted to agree with Canto that these two teams are playing as well as anyone in the Euroleague. Wednesday's game, with a spot in the Euroleague Final Four on the line, should be a classic.

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