Fenerbahce overwhelms Zalgiris
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul extended its home-court winning streak to 11 games dating back to last season with a 78-61 rout of Zalgiris Kaunas on Thursday at Ulker Sports and Event Hall. The Turkish champs improved to 16-2 to remain atop the standings. Kostas Sloukas produced 14 points and 6 assists for the winners, Melih Mahmutoglu also scored 14 without missing a shot and Jan Vesely tallied 13 points and 12 rebounds for the winners, who made a season-high 72.2% of their two-pointers. Brandon scored 12 for Zalgiris, which lost its fourth straight game and slipped to 7-11.
More than 2 and a half minutes passed before Arturas Milaknis scored the game's first points with a three-pointer. And nearly 2 more minutes ticked off the clock before Ali Muhammed's jumper got Fenerbahce on the scoreboard. Vesely's steal led to a Sloukas layup and then the big man scored inside to cap an 8-0 Fenerbahce run for an 8-5 lead. Nicolo Melli starred next with a triple followed by a steal that led to an Erick Green layup, a 15-9 advantage and a Zalgiris timeout. Deon Thompson came off the bench for his Zalgiris debut and promptly nailed a jumper, but free throws by Sloukas and Marko Guduric lifted the hosts to 19-11 after 10 minutes. Davies committed an unsportsmanlike foul against Vesely, which sent him to the bench with 3 personal fouls and allowed Fenerbahce to take its lead to double figures. Sloukas completed a 10-0 run that bridged the first two quarters with a jumper for a 14-point cushion. Though Laurynas Birutis's put-back slam ended the Zalgiris drought, Fenerbahce continued to pull away and led 34-18 after Sloukas free throws midway through the second quarter. Mahmutoglu delighted the fans with a hook shot to double the score, 38-19. Paulius Jankunas scored in the paint to make it 43-29 at the break. Zalgiris kept pace with the hosts at the start of the second half and drew within 49-39 on Marius Grigonis's runner. Fenerbahce wouldn't let Zalgiris any closer and Aaron White's free throw left the score at 57-44 through three quarters. Davies scored the first two buckets of the fourth quarter and Nate Wolters made it 57-50 as the arena fell silent. Mahmutoglu penetrated for a layup that revived the hosts and soon added a three-pointer. A Mahmutoglu steal gifted Vesely a layup and a 66-53 lead with 5 minutes to play and Zalgiris never threatened again.
Fenerbahce was in control for most of the night, but the one time Zalgiris threatened in the second half, the home team's captain was there. It was early in the fourth quarter when Zalgiris strung together a 0-6 spurt to get within 7. Melih Mahmutoglu answered with a layup and a triple to restore a double-digit advantage. Another score and a steal and assist to Jan Vesely meant that Mahmutoglu had his hands in all the points scored in a 9-3 run that made it 66-53 with 5 minutes remaining and all but put the game on ice.
Fenerbahce had a historically great shooting night inside the arc, making 26 of 36 shots. That 72.2% conversion rate was not only the best by any team in the league this season, but the third-highest in club history. Four players (Erick Green, Nikola Kalinic, Melih Mahmutoglu and Ali Muhammed) made at least 2 shots without a miss and Kostas Sloukas and Jan Vesely combined to make 11 of 13.
Did you notice?
With Brandon Davies on the bench with foul trouble, Deon Thompson, who joined the team just two days earlier, made his Zalgiris debut and made a jumper with his first touch. Thompson also contributed 1 rebound and committed two fouls in 2:31 of game time.
Fenerbahce heads on the road next week to face Herbalife Gran Canaria, while Zalgiris returns home for a clash against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens.
Thursday, January 10, 2019