Hot-shooting Krunoslav Simon and KK Zagreb built a double-digit lead and then held on for an 80-74 win over Barons Riga in Croatia on Tuesday to force a deciding third game in their EuroCup quarter-final.
Simon, a 1.97m shooting guard, had his best game of the competition by making five of seven attempts from three-point range on his way to a game-high 17 points.
Who knows? The 22-year-old, a member of Croatia's team at the U20 European Championship in 2005, may have raised the eyebrows of national team coach Jasmin Repesa with the performance, as well as Jaka Vladovic who had 16 points and 10 assists.
Vladovic, who scored seven of his points in the first quarter, was a perfect two of two from the arc while Zagreb as a team were 11 of 18 (61%).
A pair of Vladovic free throws gave Zagreb an 18-15 lead by the end of the first quarter, and Simon struck from long range twice in succession at the start of the second to put the hosts on their way to victory.
By half-time, the Zagreb lead was 46-32 and they must have thought that they had delivered the knockout punch near the end of the third quarter.
Ahead 58-48, Simon scored eight straight points on a couple of three-balls and a lay-up to put his team ahead at 66-48.
Barons managed to launch a fight back in the final period and twice closed the gap to five in the final two minutes, at 74-69 after a lay-up by Joa Paulo Lopez Batista and at 77-72 following a three-ball by Martins Kravcenko.
Zagreb held on, though, and will now attempt to win the quarter-final decider in Latvia next week.
Ante Tomic also had 16 points and eight rebounds for Zagreb.
Joao Paulo Batista, player Barons LMT Riga:
„It was a good game, for us it was just a matter to come in and play hard, but we had many missed shots. We need to learn from this game and go back home and try to win over there."
Jakov Vladovic, player KK Zagreb:
„The first half was excellent and also the beginning of second half, except for the last five minutes when we blew away a 15 points diference, because we were waiting for the game to end. Barons are an excellent team and they know how to take their chances. We was very lucky and we won the game."
Karlis Muiznieks, coach Barons LMT Riga:
„We knew that Zagreb is a very strong team, they won the Croatian Cup, and they beat Red Star Belgrade in the Adriatic League. They wanted to win tonight and we prepare for them very hard bu Zagreb played better than we did on the night and they won."
Zeljko Pavlicevic, coach KK Zagreb:
„The game was not so hard, we led the whole way, but at the end we lost control in a wish rush the game to the end . Basketball club Barons from Riga are a good team and we see that from their game, they knew how to punish our mistakes. We played very well in offense, and had excellent three point attempts. But we had a problem with deffensive rebounds.„