Zalgiris holds off depleted Khimki
Zalgiris Kaunas hit 13 three-pointers to register an 70-84 victory over undermanned host Khimki Moscow Region in a rare Saturday night game to complete Round 2 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season. Its second straight road win gave Zalgiris a 2-0 record for the first time in eight years as it joined four other unbeaten teams in first place after two rounds. Khimki, with only eight players available due to injury and COVID-19, dropped to 0-2. The hosts, built a nine-point lead early behind Jonas Jerebko, but Zalgiris caught fire early in the second quarter and pulled away for good. Zalgiris pulled into halftime on a 6-24 run and then opened the third with 4-17 push to build an unsurmountable lead midway through the third quarter. Khimki fought until the end, cutting the difference from a high of 21 to 7 points with under 5 minutes left, before Zalgiris resumed its three-point sniping and shut the door. Marius Grigonis led Zalgiris with 21 points on 5-for-8 three-point shooting. Nigel Hayes added 15 points, Arturas Milaknis 14 and Augustine Rubit 12 points for the winners. For Khimki, Jerebko finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Devin Booker added 14 points, Vladislav Odinokov 11 and Vyacheslav Zaytsev 10. Khimki was missing Alexey Shved, Stefan Jovic, Jordan Mickey and Janis Timma, among others.
Khimki started hot, with Sergey Monia and Sergey Karasev each hitting a triple to fuel a 9-2 game-opening run. Zalgiris struggled on offense, with Grigonis and Rokas Jokubaitis scoring tough buckets before Milaknis knocked down a three-pointer to close the gap to 13-11. Jerebko answered with a three of his own to help Khimki stay ahead 20-17 after one quarter. Jerebko scored 6 points in less than 2 minutes to open the second quarter, increasing the lead to 26-17. However, Zalgiris found its range against Khimki's zone defense, with Grigonis, Thomas Walkup and Milaknis each connecting from long range to get the visitors within 28-26. Zalgiris also stepped up on defense, pressuring Khimki's playmakers deep on their own half court, and continued their offensive charge with Walkup running the offense. Augustine Rubit and Nigel Hayes scored inside before triples by Milaknis and Steve Vasturia made it 32-41 at halftime. Zalgiris kept its foot on the gas pedal early in the third as Grigonis sandwiched 2 triples around one from Hayes for a sudden 34-54. Another triple from Hayes extended the margin to 21 points, the largest lead of the night, before Odinokov hit a three-pointer for Khimki, followed it with a layup, then knocked down another three at 46-61. Jumpers from Lukas Lekavicius and Rubit gave Zalgiris 48-67 advantage after 30 minutes, but the hosts had no intention of giving up. Their zone defense finally stalled Zalgiris, while Zaytsev hit a pair of runners and Booker scored inside during an 8-0 run that trimmed the margin to 56-67. A Grigonis triple snapped Zalgiris drought of more than 4 minutes without a basket, but Odinokov answered with his third triple to help. When Booker dunked, it was suddenly 63-70 with 4:18 to play. After a Zalgiris timeout, however, Milaknis answered from the corner and Grigonis added own triple before a fastbreak layup from Hayes restored a 65-78 lead with 3 minutes left, putting an end to Khimki's hopes.
It took a while for Zalgiris to click on offense, but once they did, the visitors quickly put together a 4-19 run to pull away. Zalgiris scored 16 points in the first 12 minutes and 19 in the following 6. The visitors made 3 of 4 two-pointers and 4 of 5 triples over that six-minute span.
This is the first time that Zalgiris has started the regular season with two wins since the 2012-13 season, when it started 5-0. This is also the first time in six attempts that Zalgiris has downed Khimki on the road.
Vladislav Odinokov made the best of his opportunity. Khimki's 20-year old forward got a chance to make his EuroLeague debut and in 18 minutes netted 11 points on 3-for-4 three-point shooting.
The game took place 24 hours later than it was originally planned, after one Zalgiris and several Khimki players tested positive for COVID-19.
Zalgiris will be in action already on Tuesday when it visits Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (1-1) in a Round 3 clash, while Khimki plays a day later on the road against Real Madrid (0-2).
Saturday, October 10, 2020