Zalgiris eliminated despite win over ALBA
Zalgiris Kaunas did its part to remain alive in the race for the playoffs with a come-from-behind 96-86 victory at home over ALBA Berlin but still was eliminated later when TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz bested Panathinaikos OPAP Athens 82-97. Lukas Lekavicius scored a season-high 21 points on his 27th birthday for Zalgiris, which put together a 44-13 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to snap a four-game losing streak and improve its record to 16-16. Nigel Hayes and Thomas Walkup both scored 15 points and Karolis Lukosiunas and Martinas Geben chipped in 12 points each in the win. ALBA dropped to 11-21 as Marcus Eriksson scored just 2 of his 19 points in the second half. Peyton Siva had 16 points, Jayson Granger scored 15 and Niels Giffey finished with 10 points.
Christ Koumadje started the game with an inside score and Luke Sikma followed with a three-pointer for the visitors before Walkup got Zalgiris on the board. Siva added a three-pointer and layup and Koumadje continued his good start with a block and another basket as ALBA raced ahead 5-12. Eriksson scored 5 points of his own as the ALBA gap grew to 9-17. Zalgiris countered with 5 points and then Patricio Garino hit 2 free throws for his first points of the season for the Lithuanian champs. Lekavicius drained a triple as Zalgiris got within 21-23 after 10 minutes. Lukosiunas's three-pointer early in the second quarter made it 24-25, but Eriksson remained hot with his second and third triples and a floater for a 26-33 advantage. Zalgiris was able to get close thanks to the long ball with triples from Hayes, Lekavicius and Walkup trimming the deficit to 39-41. Ben Lammers countered with a three-point play to start a 2-10 surge at the end of the first half to lead 41-51 at the break.
Joffrey Lauvergne opened the scoring in the second half, but ALBA was still up 10 points on Giffey's basket for a 45-55 lead. Zalgiris did a better job on defense and Rokas Jokubaitis's 5 points started a 17-3 run over 6 minutes that included a Hayes three-point play and a Lekavicius triple for a 62-58 cushion. Simone Fontecchio stopped the drought with a three-pointer, but Lukosiunas answered twice from long range and Zalgiris was up 68-61 after 30 minutes. The momentum continued in the final frame with Lekavicius opening it with a jumper before he and Walkup knocked down triples as the advantage swelled to 76-63. Siva connected from deep, but the Zalgiris bombers remained on fire with Walkup, Levavicius and Marius Grigonis all hitting three-pointers in a 13-2 run for an 89-68 lead with 5 minutes to play. Granger tried to give ALBA some hope with three triples and a long jumper for 11 points in a 5-13 run to pull within 94-81 with under 2 minutes to play. But ALBA would not get closer the rest of the way.
Bombs away for Zalgiris
Zalgiris was lights out from long range in connecting on 16 of 24 three-pointers. The 16 made triples were the third-most for Zalgiris in the EuroLeague - 3 fewer than the 19 the club made in February 2020 against Anadolu Efes Istanbul. And the 66.7% also ranks third; the club record is 72.2% against Peristeri in December 2000.
No Grigonis or Lauvergne needed
The offensive spectacle was all the more impressive considering Marius Grigonis and Joffrey Lauvergne were held to just 6 and 4 points, respectively - both well below their season averages of 14.2 points and 10.9 points, respectively. Lukas Lekavicius scored a season-high 21 points, while Martinas Geben evened his career-best showing with 12 points and Karolis Lukosiunas totaled 12 points – 2 points fewer than he scored in a combined 52 minutes in his other 13 EuroLeague appearances this season.
Zalgiris forced 17 ALBA turnovers and turned them into 18 points compared to 7 points for ALBA from 11 Zalgiris turnovers. Zalgiris's reserves also outscored the starters 56-40.
Zalgiris will head to Germany for its next game against FC Bayern Munich on Thursday, April 1. ALBA will play its penultimate game the next night when it hosts Valencia Basket.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021