Zvezda overpowers Zalgiris in home opener
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade overpowered Zalgiris Kaunas 73-61 in the team's home opener on Wednesday at Stark Arena. Nikola Kalinic scored 13 of his team-high 15 points in the second half to pace Zvezda, which won its second straight game to improve to 2-1. Ognjen Dobric added 13 points, Luka Mitrovic produced 12 points and 7 rebounds and Nate Wolters compiled 11 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists for the winners. Zalgiris was unable to get its first win under new head coach Jure Zdovc and fell to 0-3 on the season. Josh Nebo was a bright spot for Zalgiris with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Niels Giffey and Lukas Lekavicius added 11 points apiece as the Lithuanian champs dropped to 0-3.
Zvezda scored on each of its first four possessions – including a pair of buckets by Wolters – to take a 9-5 lead. The margin reached 7, but Zalgiris found its footing after the TV timeout. Nebo came alive with a block at one end and an offensive rebound and slam at the other. A three-pointer by Giffey closed the gap to 13-12 and prompted a Zvezda timeout. Giffey kept the Zalgiris momentum with a layup and a 13-14 Zalgiris edge after 10 minutes.
Nikola Ivanovic fed Mitrovic for a slam and sank free throws on the next possession as Zvezda regained the lead at the start of the second quarter. Nebo and Giffey stepped up for the visitors, who went back ahead, 17-19, on the latter's triple midway through the quarter. After a floater by Janis Strelnieks, Zvezda, which has been held without points for over 4 minutes, called timeout. The stoppage worked as Dobric and Ognjen Kuzmic each scored in the paint to tie the game at 21-21. The teams traded baskets and Wolters and Mitrovic nudged Zvezda ahead 29-27 at the break.
Kalinic brought the crowd to its feet with a three to open the second half. Kalinic scored again, but just when it looked like the hosts would pull away, Nebo had a put-back slam and Edgaras Ulanovas drilled a three to keep the visitors close. After Lekavicius nailed a three from the corner to get Zalgiris within 38-37, Dobric responded in suit. With the fans singing loudly in unison, Zvezda forced a 24-second violation and Austin Hollins scored after an offensive board by Mitrovic. Giffey revived Zalgiris with a three-pointer and Marek Blazevic scored in the paint to make it 46-42 through three quarters.
Lekavicius nailed a three from the corner to bring Zalgiris within 51-49 after 2 minutes of play in the fourth quarter. Mitrovic completed a three-point play in the paint, but a long three by Tyler Cavanaugh made it 58-55 with 5 minutes to play. Cavanaugh soon added another triple to get Zalgiris within 2. However, the Zalgiris scorers went cold at the worst time for them and Dobric and Kalinic extended the lead to 66-58 with 2 and a half minutes to play and Zvezda cruised the rest of the way.
Wolters burns his former team, again
Nate Wolters has only played for three teams in his Turkish Airlines EuroLeague career and on Wednesday, the Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade guard shined against a former team for the second week in a row. Wolters went for 17 points, 4 assists and 2 steals in Round 2 to lead Zvezda to a road win at Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv, which was Wolters's home for the 2019-20 season. He followed that with a superb all-around showing against Zalgiris Kaunas, where he spent the 2018-19 campaign. Wolters tallied 11 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists for a performance index rating of 17. Through three games, Wolters's averages of 12.3 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists are career-highs.
Nebo is huge bright spot for Zalgiris
Despite the loss at the hands of Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, Zalgiris Kaunas can take away the impressive play of center Josh Nebo. The EuroLeague rookie made his first start in the competition in place of the injured Joffrey Lauvergne and recorded a double-double in 30 minutes on the floor. Nebo scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He made his only 2 field goal attempts and added 10 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block for a performance index rating of 24, which was the highest of any player on the floor.
Telling numbers: Zvezda made just 7 turnovers
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade won on the scoreboard in large part because it dominated Zalgiris Kaunas in several key statistical areas. The hosts controlled the rebounding battle 37-30 and their 17-second-chance points were 7 more than Zalgiris. Zvezda's 7 turnovers were half the number it forced the visitors into. Zvezda also made 55% of its two-point shots (22 of 40), while holding Zalgiris to 42.4% (14 of 33). All of those numbers made up for the fact that Zvezda struggled with its outside shooting (5 of 21 threes, 23.8%). Zalgiris was 9 for 22 (40.9%) from downtown.
Wednesday, October 13, 2021