Zalgiris fends off Baskonia for third straight home win
Zalgiris Kaunas continued its strong recent run by battling past Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz 72-68 at home for its third win in the last four games. Lukas Lekavicius stepped up with 8 points in the final 3 minutes to give Zalgiris a 3-10 record - with all three wins coming at Zalgirio Arena. Lekavicius finished with 13 points while Josh Nebo and Mantas Kalnietis both scored 10 points in the win. Baskonia lost for the seventh time in its last eight games as its record fell to 4-9. Steven Enoch paced Baskonia with 13 points and 10 rebounds, Simone Fontecchio scored 12 points, Jayson Granger picked up 11 points and 6 assists and Lamar Peters chipped in 10 points in the defeat.
Tyler Cavanaugh opened the game with a three-pointer for the hosts and Janis Strelnieks also hit from deep to go along with two Nebo scores as Zalgiris jumped ahead 12-4. Granger hit a triple and Enoch and Rokas Giedraitis followed with three-point plays to pull the visitors within 16-15. Edgaras Ulanovas responded with an and-one of his own and Zalgiris led 21-19 after 10 minutes.
Wade Baldwin IV knotted the game to start the second quarter and a Peters layup after a Zalgiris turnover gave Baskonia its first lead, 24-25. The home side punched right back with a Nebo alley-oop dunk and the see-saw started with a Cavanaugh triple making it 29-25 followed by Giedraitis’s three-pointer to push Baskonia ahead 29-30. Zalgiris was able to shut down the visitors' offense with just one basket while Nebo had two scores and Arturas Milaknis drained a three-pointer in an 11-2 run over the final 4 minutes of the first half to go into the locker room ahead 40-32.
Tadas Sedekerskis finally scored first for Baskonia after nearly 2 minutes. Kalneitis answered with 5 points and Zalgiris’ lead extended to double digits 45-34. The hosts went cold offensively and Sedekerskis added 5 more points and Fontecchio’s steal and layup trimmed the deficit to 45-43. Marek Blazevic snapped Zalgiris’ 4-minute scoreless rut and 2 free throws made it 51-43. Baldwin’s three-pointer had the visitors within 51-46 after 30 minutes.
Tai Webster came off the bench for Zalgiris’ first 4 points of the fourth quarter for a 55-46 cushion. Fontecchio’s three-point play finally got Baskonia on the board after more than 2 minutes. Kalnietis and Peters swapped triples before Milaknis hit a three-pointer and Zalgiris was up 61-52 halfway through the final frame. Baskonia was not done yet with Fontecchio hitting from deep and Granger draining back-to-back three-pointers to even the game 63-63 with under 3 minutes to play. Lekavicius countered with a floater and jumper from the free-throw line. The hosts led 67-63 with 92 seconds to play. After a Peters score, Lekavicius added 2 more free throws and Zalgiris was up 71-65 with 35 seconds remaining. Peters went down to the other end to hit a three-pointer and Fontecchio grabbed a steal under the basket but could not convert. Cavanaugh was fouled with 17 seconds left and made 1 free throw to ice the game.
Lekavicius the hero
Lukas Lekavicius stepped up for Zalgiris Kaunas when his team needed a boost the most. Jayson Granger had just drained back-to-back three-pointers to tie the game and then the 27-year-old Lithuanian guard scored 8 straight points to give Zalgiris a 6-point lead with 35 seconds left. He finished with 13 points, 2 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals and a performance index rating of 23. The assists were just one of his career-high from earlier this season when he dished out 10 assists against Real Madrid.
Third double-double in four games for Enoch
Steven Enoch is starting to come around for Baskonia in his first season in the EuroLeague. He collected 13 points and 10 rebounds to go with 3 steals for a PIR of 23. It was the 24-year-old’s third double-double in the last four games. Enoch has been outstanding over the last five games, averaging 17.2 points and 8.6 rebounds for an average index rating of 23.2.
Zalgiris defense finds stability
Zalgiris came into the game with the worst defense in the league, having allowed 81.1 points per game. Coach Jure Zdovc’s men conceded just 68 points to Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, which was the fewest given up this season by the team. In the three home wins in the last four games, Zalgiris has allowed just 70.7 points. Baskonia shot just 48.7% on two-pointers in the game while hitting a meager 31.0% on three-pointers. Baskonia also took only 5 free throws - and made 3 of them. Zalgiris also did a better job on the defensive glass - giving up just 2 offensive rebounds in the second half after Baskonia snatched 10 in the first 20 minutes.
Thursday, December 2, 2021