Zalgiris stays strong to overcome Maccabi
Zalgiris Kaunas made it two wins out of two in the double-round week by staying strong to overcome Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv 80-73 in Lithuania. A second quarter surge allowed Zalgiris to take a double-digit lead and the margin was more or less the same for the remainder of the action, although Maccabi never gave up. The home side was led by 16 points from Arturas Milaknis on 4-of-6 three-pointers. Aaron White contributed 12 points and 7 rebounds, and fellow big man Brandon Davies had 13 points and 5 boards. Edgaras Ulanovas scored 13 points, and Leo Westermann combined 11 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Scottie Wilbekin led all scorers with 20 points for Maccabi, followed by Johnny O’Bryant with 18. The victory takes Zalgiris to 7-7 in a four-way tie for sixth place, while Maccabi drops to 4-10.
Defenses were on top early, as Davies scored twice for Zalgiris while O’Bryant made a three-pointer and a trio of free throws. Wilbekin and Ulanovas traded triples, and Wilbekin struck from deep again to make it 16-16 at the end of the first. A huge put-back slam by White was followed by two more baskets from O’Bryant, before Milaknis scored 7 straight points for a 29-22 lead. Wilbekin beat the buzzer from way downtown to end the run, but Thomas Walkup, Ulanovas and another Milaknis triple stretched the lead to double digits as Zalgiris’s defense hung tough, before Wilbekin’s fourth triple made it 39-33 at the break. The second half started with a dunk from Davies and a layup plus one from Walkup, before DeAndre Kane made a triple to reignite Maccabi. White scored twice, Derrick Walton made a trio of free throws and a three-pointer from Ulanovas made it 54-40, but a long-range buzzer-beater from Kane and a pair of two-pointers from Wilbekin, followed by another buzzer-beater from Michael Roll, pulled it back to 59-53 after three quarters. Alex Tyus dunked at the start of the final period but Westermann and Milaknis answered with key triples. Walton struck from deep and White threw down an alley-oop for a 70-60 edge midway through the fourth, and another Westermann triple appeared to make the hosts safe. Roll’s three-pointer gave Maccabi hope, but Westermann’s third downtown strike effectively ended the game.
Milaknis the game-changer
Neither team led by more than 4 points until midway through the second quarter, when Arturas Milaknis took over. First he made a three-pointer, and then completed a 7-0 personal run with a left-handed finish and a pair of free throws. Before long Milaknis added another three-pointer to stretch his team’s lead, and Maccabi was never ahead again.
Westermann makes history repeat itself
On Wednesday night against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica, Zalgiris claimed victory when Leo Westermann struck a clutch three-pointer with 26 seconds remaining and then added free throws to complete the scoring. Two days later back home in Lithuania, Westermann repeated that formula by striking three triples in the final quarter, including one with just over a minute to play to ensure Maccabi could not come back. Westermann then scored the last point of the game with a free throw, and grabbed the final rebound. Zalgiris has a new Mr Finisher.
Ray injury blow for Maccabi
Maccabi’s task was hindered by the loss of Kendrick Ray after a collision which badly hurt his left ankle early in the first quarter. Ray had averaged nearly 13 minutes on the floor during his previous 10 appearances this season, but could only manage 2.02 this time.
Zalgiris will bring its season to the midway point with a road trip to face Herbalife Gran Canaria next Friday. A day earlier, Maccabi hosts AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan.
Friday, December 21, 2018