KK Zagreb edged Zalgiris Kaunas 80-78
KK Zagreb recorded its first ever Euroleague victory on Wednesday by outlasting Zalgiris Kaunas 80-78 in a thriller in the Croatian capital. Krunoslav Simon scored 22 points and Josh Heytvelt added 17 points and 11 rebounds to pace the winners. Zagreb dominated early and led by 15 in the second quarter, but Zalgiris came all the way back to set up a very exciting fourth quarter, which featured 11 lead changes and four ties. Paulius Jankunas tied the game at 78-78 with 27 seconds to go. Zagreb kept the visitors in the game by making 2 of 4 free throws the rest of the way, but Zalgiris committed a costly turnover and Mantas Kalnietis missed at the buzzer, which allowed Zagreb to celebrate. Mario Kasun added 11 points and Sean May and Damir Mulaomerovic scored 10 each for Zagreb. Jankunas shined for Zalgiris with 24 points and 11 rebounds, Marko Popovic netted 11 and Milovan Rakovic had 10 for Zalgiris, which dropped to 2-3 in Group B.
It was all about the bigs early. Mario Kasun and Jankunas scored their respective team’s first 4 points. May connected from downtown, but Jankunas soon evened the score at 7-7. Mantas Kalnietis gave Zalgiris its first lead, 9-11, but Kasun evened the score on the next play. The lead flip flopped on baskets by Jankunas and Zagreb’s Heytvelt. Weems ran the court for an emphatic slam to put up 16-17. Tomas Delininkaitis nailed a three for the biggest lead of the night yet for either team, but Heytvelt matched him at the end to keep Zagreb close. Simon knocked in 2 free throws to make it 21-20 at the end of the first quarter.
The duo of Heytvelt and Simon combined for the first 6 points of the second quarter as the home side looked to pull away. Robertas Javtokas scored in the paint for Zalgiris, but Zagreb continued to roll and a Damir Rancic triple made it 32-22. Simon handed off to Heytvelt for a slam. Delininkaitis scored to end the Zalgiris drought, but Damir Mulaomerovic connected from downtown and after a Jankunas free throw, a Rancic three made it 40-25. Javtokas and Delininkaitis reacted for 5 quick points to revive the visitors. Then Kalnietis and Jankunas both scored from the charity stripe. And Jankunas capped a 0-11 charge to put Zalgiris right back in the thick of things at 40-36 at halftime.
Kasun looked to pick up where he left off at the start of the game with a steal, an offensive rebound and a slam early in the third quarter. However Vytenis Lipkevicius plowed into Kasun and managed to draw the Zagreb center’s third foul and send him to the bench. The Rakovic found room inside for his first two baskets as Zalgiris started to take over. After an offensive foul called on Heytvelt, Popovic nailed a deep three to put Zalgiris ahead 42-43. A Rakovic steal led to Ty Lawson’s first points to cap a 0-9 run. After a timeout, Simon connected from behind the arc to tie the game, but Rakovic and Popovic answered to put Zalgiris up by 5. May and Mulaomerovic managed to keep Zagreb close. But Popovic drained a third triple in the quarter, May picked up an offensive foul and Rakovic lifted the lead to 6. However Simon answered with a basket-plus-foul to make it 57-60 with one quarter remaining.
Rancic threw a perfect pass to Heytvelt for an alley-oop slam and Simon converted down low as Zagreb regained the lead, 61-60, early in the fourth quarter. A Jankunas tip-in followed by a Heytvelt follow saw the lead seesaw to each side. Jankunas battled for his seventh offensive rebound, drew a foul and converted twice from the line to even the score at 66-66. Sonny Weems then put Zalgiris back on top with a single free throw. Saso Ozbolt het a pretty reverse layup for the hosts. Rakovic countered inside and Mantas Kalnietis drove the lane for a layup to make it 68-71 midway through the fourth quarter. And then Simon tied the score once more. And Mulaomerovic lifted Zagreb in front. Kalnietis went coast to coast for a layup that evened the score. Jankunas did his thing again with an offensive rebound, foul drawn and 2 free throws to make it 73-75 with 1:48 remaining. May did him better at the other end with an offensive rebound, basket and foul to put his team up 1. After a series of turnovers, Popovic pulled up for a long jumper to make it 76-77 with a minute left. Kasun spun around Javtokas to put the hosts in front with 44 seconds left. Weems drove the lane for Zalgiris and missed, but Jankunas grabbed the rebound, drew May’s fifth foul and evened the score at 78-78 with 27 seconds on the clock. Zalgiris sent Kasun to the line and he made just 1. After a timeout, Weems’s pass was picked off by Heytvelt. Zalgiris fouled Mulaomerovic, who made just 1 free throw, and then the visitors grabbed the ball with 7.2 seconds left. Popovic drove and passed to Kalnietis, whose awkward shot at the buzzer hit the front rim and allowed Zagreb to celebrate its very first Euroleague win.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011