Zalgiris keeps pace with resounding home win!
Zalgiris Kaunas, needing to win its last home game to keep pace in the playoffs race, delivered its fans a beauty on Friday, thrashing Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul by 94-67 for the team's fourth win in a row. The victory lifted Zalgiris to a 13-15 record, a win removed from the playoff places, to continue to put pressure on the teams ahead in the standings. Darussafaka fell to 4-24, but came out stronger and was ahead by 4-11 early. Zalgiris awoke late in the first quarter, added a 13-0 run to open the second, and never looked back on the way to victory. Darussafaka never really threatened beyond that point. Zalgiris had five scores in double digits, led by Brandon Davies with 13 points, 5 rebounds and a pair of steals. Deon Thompson, Nate Wolters and Arturas Milaknis finished with 12 points apiece while Marius Grigonis had 11. Darussafaka's Jeremy Evans finished as their top scorer with 14 points, while Muhammed Baygul landed 11.
Muhammed Baygul, with 7 points and 2 assists, propelled Darussafaka to an early 4-11 lead, prompting a Zalgiris timeout, after which the hosts found their groove. Thomas Walkup, Grigonis and Thompson reeled off consecutive points. Zalgiris took its first lead on Thompson's throw-down at 13-11. A second triple by Grigonis made it 16-11 and lifted the home crowd to its feet as Zalgiris continued to pile on the pressure. Another three, this time from Milaknis, extended the lead, but Darussafaka fought back behind Evans to get within 22-18 after 10 minutes. Davies was joined early in the second quarter by Wolters, whose three-point play supplied the first double-digit lead, after which the hosts really took control of the game. They continued to build that lead through Grigonis and Wolters and continued on a 13-0 run that lasted until almost midway through the quarter. Michael Eric's two-pointer ended it, but Zalgiris had built up a head of steam. Milaknis remained perfect from three-point distance to give Zalgiris an 18-point lead as half-time approached. They were relentless in that second quarter and gave their guests a mountain to climb at the break with a 49-30 lead. Zalgiris had no intention of taking their foot off the gas either, and came out of the locker room with threes by Leo Westermann and Grigonis to restore a 20-point gap, 55-35. Davies slammed again and followed it with an alley-oop rim-rocker lobbed to him by Westermann as Darussafaka's hopes continued to dissipate. The guests did make a mini-comeback with their first three of the game late in the third from Mert Akay followed by an alley-oop from Savas to Evans. At the end of that third quarter, however, it was still Zalgiris in control on a scoreline of 68-46. Milaknis started the fourth quarter as the three previous had gone, nailing a three from the corner. He hit his second of the quarter, his fourth total and Zalgiris's 10th of the night soon after to push the lead to 26 points. That lead would grow to 31 as the game opened up near the end with the home side still alive in the playoffs race for another week, at least. It ended 94-67 as Zalgiris celebrated its last home game of the regular season with a comprehensive victory.
Game changing sequence
To start the second quarter, Zalgiris went on a 13-0 run to break the game open and leave Darussafaka with too much to do to mount a comeback. Scores from Davies, Wolters, Grigonis and Edgaras Ulanovas helped them to a 17-point lead. Zalgiris would outscore the visitors 27-12 in what was a decisive quarter of the game.
Deon Thompson had his best scoring night in a Zalgiris uniform since joining the club back in Round 18. His 6-for-8 two-point shooting, 3 offensive rebounds and 3 steals were all instrumental as Zalgiris recovered from a slow start to take control of the game.
Four wins in a row doubles the next-longest winning streak that Zalgiris has had this season and is just one fewer than its longest such run last season on the way to the Final Four.
Zalgiris will have déjà vu as it visits Olympiacos in Round 29 for what will seem like a single-game replay of their playoffs series last year, which the visitors took thanks to a Game 1 road win in Piraeus. Darussafaka plays its last home game of the regular season against Bayern Munich next Wednesday in another contest with playoffs implications for the visitors.
Friday, March 22, 2019