Marcus Brown matched his Euroleague career-high with 31 points as Zalgiris Kaunas remained perfect at home this season with a 102-82 victory over Virtus VidiVici Bologna on Thursday at the S. Darius & S. Girenas Sports Center. The Lithuanian champs improved to 4-4 in Group A and join Olympiacos in a tie for fourth place. The evening began with a salute to former Zalgiris greats as part of Euroleague Basketball's season-long 50 Years of European Club Competitions celebration and the current players made the former heroes proud with a fine performance. Brown made 7 of 9 three-pointers and finished with 31 points to match his career high set nearly six years ago. Jonas Maciulis added 13 points, Michael Bradley 12, De Juan Collins scored 11 points and dished 8 assists and Paulius Jankunas finished with 10. Dewarick Spencer led Virtus with 22, Delonte Holland scored 15 and Andrea Crosariol posted 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.
Maciulis got Zalgiris going with a three-pointer, but Virtus reacted immediately and Alan Anderson drove inside to give the guests their first lead at 3-4. Brown matched him with nice penetration, but Fabio Di Bella silenced the crowd with bomb from downtown. Brown found his way for another basket and tied the score at 9-9. Eurelijus Zukauskas blocked a shot and Maciulis converted it into two-handed dunk at the other end. Virtus turned to Crosariol, who scored in transition, before Di Bela added an acrobatic layup to get within 15-13. Collins stepped up and drove for a basket, but Crosariol matched him with put-back basket. Brown paced Zalgiris with a long jumper before Bradley hit a layup on the offensive boards. Crosariol beat Bradley one-on-one, but he had his revenge in the same situation on the very next possession. Collins’s drive resulted in a three-point play that gave Zalgiris a double-digit lead and Marko Popovic buzzer-beater from near mid-court gave the hosts a 30-17 advantage after 10 minutes.
Zalgiris started the second quarter with sticky defense and Goran Jurak hit a layup before Mantas Kalnietis slammed home a spectacular dunk off his own steal. Virtus continued to stumble against the Zalgiris defense, while on the other side Zalgiris’s showtime attack flourished as Jurak hit a jump hook and Dainius Salenga made one of two free throws that extended the gap as wide as 39-18. Virtus continued to play individually on offense and couldn’t score from the field until Donnie Mc Grath drilled a three-pointer. However Bradley answered immediately and Popovic added 2 free throws. Maciulis showed that he can play every position, scoring 4 points playing as center in the paint before Popovic penetrated through the Virtus defense for a layup. Virtus tried to run its offense through Spencer, who launched a triple. Holland tried to step up and drive inside, but found nothing but an offensive foul, but Zalgiris didn’t convert it into the points and left the court with solid lead halftime lead, 51-32.
Zalgiris opened the second half behind 4 points by Jankunas, but he collected 2 fouls in less than minute and headed to the bench as Roberto Chiacig made both free throws. Zalgiris, however, didn’t slowed down its offense as Brown nailed a three and fed Zukauskas for a dunk. Collins penetrated for a layup before Virtus answered with back-to-back baskets, but Brown remained hot and connected from downtown. Brown exchanged a few words with the referee and received a technical foul, but Virtus converted it to only 1 point. The visitors tried to stop Brown by double teaming, but it didn’t stop Zalgiris’ best offensive weapon as he drilled another difficult three that pushed Zalgiris ahead 69-43. Collins nailed a fade-away jumper from the left wing, but it was Brown who charged the crowd with yet another triple. Crosariol broke the dry spell with a difficult layup, but the Brown show continued over and over as he launched another incredible bomb from the downtown and the hosts led 83-50 heading into the fourth quarter.
Luca Garri scored and Spencer added a jumper, but Virtus could not compete against Brown, who hit two more triples before heading to the bench. Spencer seemed to be the only player who refused to quit and he drilled a triple that reduced the margin to 89-59. Kalnietis dished to Bradley for a layup and even a 0-10 Virtus run, featuring a nice two-handed dunk by Crosariol, a basket by Spencer in transition and a basket Federico Lestini, wasn’t enough to threaten Zalgiris. Salenga struck back with three that cooled off Virtus and allowed the hosts to celebrate another home win.
Thursday, December 13, 2007