Zalgiris hosts Fenerbahce for the first of two games in a sold-out Zalgirio Arena in Kaunas as it hopes to return to the EuroLeague Final Four for the second consecutive season. Fenerbahce is trying to make it to the Final Four for the fifth consecutive year but finds itself in unfamiliar territory as this is the first time under Coach Zeljko Obradovic that Fenerbahce did not win the first two games of its playoff series.
Previously in the series
The two teams split wins in the first two games of the series in Istanbul. In Game 1, Fenerbahce took control behind a stellar defensive performance to beat Zalgiris 76-43. It was the largest EuroLeague Playoffs win in Fenerbahce history and the fourth largest all-time, while Zalgiris set a club low for points scored in a EuroLeague game. Nikola Kalinic led Fenerbahce with 16 points in that game. Two days later, Zalgiris responded and built a 17-point lead before withstanding a Fenerbahce rally and holding on for an 80-82 victory. Edgaras Ulanovas led the winners with 20 points and 7 rebounds.
Edgaras Ulanovas played a great Game 2, shining with 20 points and 7 rebounds, but equally important to that offensive contribution were his defensive battles against Nikola Kalinic, Marko Guduric and Nicolo Melli. Kalinic led Fenerbahce with 16 points in the opener, but missed all 5 field goals in Game 2. Both are the types of players whose contributions are not measured just by statistics. But when they are involved and on their game, it always serves their teams well.
Keys to victory: Zalgiris
Zalgiris proved to be quick learners, needing less than 48 hours after a 33-point loss in the first game to fix their mistakes and win the second game. Zalgiris still can take better care of the ball; it committed 23 turnovers in the opener and 14 turnovers in the second game, but the team did establish an inside game and went to it early and often in Game 2. With Fenerbahce down to two centers, Ahmet Duverioglu and Jan Vesely, Zalgiris will need to find a way to get things going inside again against Fenerbahce's tough defense, while defensively continuing to control the boards; Zalgiris has allowed a total of 7 offensive board in the first two games combined.
Keys to victory: Fenerbahce
Fenerbahce's defense dominated Game 1 and the fourth quarter of Game 2, fueling a big rally that eventually came up short. In Kaunas, with fans in a packed arena giving a push for the other team, Fenerbahce cannot allow itself a slow start. The team needs to come out and stay focused while matching the intensity and a high energy level that Zalgiris will certainly bring into this game. Despite the fact it lost the home-court advantage, Fenerbahce knows its defense can help win any game in any place.