Zalgiris beats ALBA away to extend streak
Zalgiris Kaunas overcame offensive struggles to extend its winning streak to five games by knocking off host ALBA Berlin 71-74 on Tuesday. Zalgiris hit just 5 three-pointers – none in the game's first 19 minutes – but scored enough when it counted as Nigel Hayes nailed 3 triples in scoring a team-high 18 points for to lift his team's record to 10-6. Joffrey Lauvergne picked up 16 points and 7 rebounds and Marius Grigonis scored 8 of his 12 points in the final 3 minutes for the winners. Simone Fonteccehio paced ALBA with 14 points while Niels Giffey, Tim Schneider and Luke Sikma all had 11 points. Sikma left the game with a leg injury with 9 minutes left and didn't return for ALBA, which suffered its third straight loss to fall to 6-10.
Grigonis opened the scoring for Zalgiris while Fontecchio did so for ALBA. Lauvergne and Sikma swapped 4 points each and Fontecchio's second score gave ALBA its first lead, 8-6. Both teams were playing hard-nosed defense, with Zalgiris going more than 6 minutes without a basket but still evening the score at 10-10 on Rokas Jokubaitis's free throws. ALBA managed to grab a 14-12 after 10 minutes. Jokubaitis's layup soon pushed Zalgiris back ahead 14-15 but Fontecchio hitting the game's first three-pointer to start a 10-0 ALBA run to a 25-17 lead. Lauvergne's tip-in stopped that surge only to see Giffey hit from deep and Maodo Lo's three-point play made it a double-digit ALBA advantage, 33-23. Lauvergne scored twice for Zalgiris and assisted Hayes's three-pointer – Zalgiris's first – on the way to a 37-31 score at intermission. Hayes hit twice from downtown while scoring Zalgiris's first 8 points after the break to make it 41-39. Lauvergne threw down a pair of alley-oop dunks and Paulius Jankunas pushed Zalgiris ahead 43-46. Augustine Rubit added 2 baskets as Zalgiris stretched the difference to 48-54 after 30 minutes.
Sikma opened the fourth-quarter scoring but Hayes followed with 5 points as the Zalgiris lead grew to 50-59. ALBA responded with 7 points including Schneider's three-pointer at 57-59. Grigonis scored back-to-back baskets before Giffey's put-back made it 65-67. Arturas Milaknis punched back with a three-pointer only to see Schneider convert an and-on basket before Grigonis calmly drained 2 of 2 foul shots with 13 seconds to play for a 68-72 Zalgiris lead. Schneider would not let ALBA die, hitting a corner triple to make it a one-point game, 71-72, with 4.7 seconds left. But Grigonis added 2 more free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining to ice the game.
ALBA without sideline leader
ALBA dealt with a bout of COVID-19 cases early in the season and had to do without its head coach for this game as Aito Reneses Garcia tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. Israel Gonzalez was filling in for the veteran play-caller.
Finally a road win
The two teams had faced off six times in the EuroLeague this century coming into the game, but each time the home team won. That is until Zalgiris got the job done on the road in the German capital.
Despite hitting just 5-of-15 three-pointers (33.3%), Zalgiris connected on 58.5% of its two-pointers while holding ALBA to just 47.9% from close range. Both teams committed 16 turnovers but Zalgiris turned them into 18 points compared to 12 for the hosts.
ALBA's next contest will be on January 5 as it hosts TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz in a Round 5 make-up game. Zalgiris will play its next contest at home as it welcomes Khimki Moscow Region on January 8 in Round 18 action.
Tuesday, December 29, 2020