CSKA dominates Zalgiris for fourth straight win
CSKA Moscow used dominant defense and a resurgent Nikola Milutinov to down host Zalgiris Kaunas 51-73 on Friday night at the Zalgirio Arena. CSKA won its fourth straight game, improving to a 9-5 record and a share of third place. Zalgiris had its three-game home winning streak snapped, dropping to 3-11. After a tight first half, CSKA opened the third quarter with a 0-7 run and added a 2-13 spurt to take an 18-point margin and maintain control of the game on the way to victory. Nikola Milutinov paced CSKA with a double-double of 19 points plus 12 rebounds, while Alexey Shved scored 17 points in the winning effort. For Zalgiris, which was held to a club-record low of 51 points in a EuroLeague home game, Josh Nebo was the only double-digit scorer, with 11 points, and added 7 rebounds.
Arturas Milaknis downed a triple and Nebo skied for a dunk for Zalgiris while Milutinov score twice inside to help CSKA take a 7-8 lead. Iffe Lundberg and Milaknis traded three-pointers while Shved scored 6 points, including a triple, to push the difference to 14-19. Regimantas Miniotas helped the hosts get within 18-19 after 10 minutes and Tyler Cavanaugh hit a jumper at the start of the second quarter, but a baseline jumper and a triple from Will Clyburn opened a new 20-29 margin for CSKA. Zalgiris responded after a timeout with a dunk from Nebo and triples by Lukas Lekavicius and Milaknis to get within 28-29 with 2:25 left in the first half. CSKA stopped the bleeding with a timeout, but the only point for the remainder of the quarter was a Marius Grigonis free throw that set a halftime score at 28-30.
CSKA scored the first 7 points after the break with Shved sinking a triple and racing for a fastbreak dunk. Mantas Kalnietis and Nikita Kurbanov traded triples before Daniel Hackett's runner for CSKA made it 33-44 midway through the third quarter. A long-range dagger from Lundberg pushed the lead to 35-49. Lekavicius hit a tough basket, but Milutinov's dunk and Clyburn's driving layup through a crowd left the visitors up 39-57 after 30 minutes. CSKA went scoreless for more than 4 minutes to open the fourth quarter, but all Zalgiris managed during that time was baskets from Nebo and Edgaras Ulanovas that cut the difference to 45-57. CSKA could not score a field goal, but got to the free throw line for the game's next 5 points. Shved's long jumper with 3:40 to go was his team's first field goal in the final quarter, but enough to open a 48-64 lead and ice the game before Milutinov's baskets in the final minutes broke the 20-point margin.
CSKA's defense was the best by a Zalgirio Arena visitor
CSKA entered the game allowing 80.2 points per game, second-most in the EuroLeague, but its defense certainly showed up in Kaunas. The hosts were held to 51 points, the lowest total scored by Zalgiris on its home floor this century. CSKA's defense held the hosts to 45.5% on two-point tries and just 5 three-pointers made on 29.4% shooting from beyond the arc. CSKA also forced 19 turnovers. The previous worst scoring output for Zalgiris at home was a 52-61 home loss against Olympiacos Piraeus in March 2008.
Turnovers made a big difference in this game. Each team had 5 turnovers at halftime, but then CSKA forced 7 turnovers on Zalgiris in the third quarter and 7 more in the fourth. CSKA finished with a 19-12 advantage in turnovers, which helped hold Zalgiris to just 33 combined points in the final three quarters, with the hosts failing to score more than 12 points in any of those. Add the control of the glass to the mix, in the form of CSKA's 14-8 advantage in offensive rebounds, and it is easy to see how the visitors took control and registered a 22-point win.
Grigonis returns home
Marius Grigonis played his first game in his hometown since leaving Zalgiris this past summer. He not only grew up with Zalgiris, but played the last three seasons there and was the team's top scorer last season. What he will remember about the game is CSKA's 22-point victory, but not by his offensive performance. Grigonis was trying to be aggressive against his former team and on the floor he knows the best, but he finished the game with 6 points, all of them coming from the free throw line. He did not attempt a two-point shot while missing all 4 of his three-point attempts in just over 15 minutes on the floor.
Friday, December 10, 2021