Bayern stuns Zalgiris in Lucic’s return
FC Bayern Munich finally tasted the sweetness of a Turkish Airlines EuroLeague victory by defeating Zalgiris Kaunas 73-75 at Zalgirio Arena on Thursday night. The visitors had a slow start, struggling on offense and trailing 39-23 late in the second quarter. But, after the break, Bayern switched to a very different version of itself and managed to tie it, 52-52, after 29 minutes. 7 points in a row by Darrun Hilliard midway through the fourth quarter gave the visitors a short lead, which DeShaun Thomas and Vladimir Lucic confirmed with key baskets and free throws in crunch time. Bayern, whose record improved to 1-4, was led by Lucic, who posted 17 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 8 fouls drawn in his first EuroLeague appearance this season. Thomas followed with 15 points, Hilliard chipped in 14 and Corey Walden contributed 11 for the winners. Lukas Lekavicius paced Zalgiris with 17 points and was well accompanied by Josh Nebo, who posted a double-double of 12 points and 13 boards. Mantas Kalnietis and Niels Giffey went for 11 points apiece in the losing effort.
Both teams had slow starts on offense, missing shots and swapping turnovers in the early going. A tough bank shot by Kalnietis and a lonely free throw by Walden were the only points in the first 3 minutes. Lucic and Milaknis traded triples to change the trend and Nebo and Hilliard followed in scoring on each side. The former helped the hosts build a 13-8 edge after 7 minutes. Giffey buried a three and Lekavicius scored a nice floater to extend it to 18-11 soon after. Despite calling for a timeout, things got even worse for the visitors, as Lekavicius provided 2 more buckets and Giffey added 2 points from the line to make it 24-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Lekavicius dug it deeper with a triple, and even though no one else for Zalgiris managed to score for a while, the hosts’ dominance under the glass prevented Bayern from finding its momentum. Thomas took over with 4 points in a row to try to wake up the visitors, but back-to-back triples by Kalnietis blurred the rally and set a 33-19 home lead. Giffey punished again from downtown, Ulanovas followed with a layup and Lekavicius scored from the line to increase the gap to 39-23, although Lucic and Rubit showed up later to lessen the Bayern wounds and send the game to the locker room with the home team in control 39-27 at halftime.
The visitors displayed much better efficiency after the break, using Walden in a 3-8 run to reduce the deficit to single-digits, 42-35, early in the third quarter. Thomas followed later with a three-pointer to bring Bayern within 44-38, as Zalgiris struggled to find open looks on offense. Hilliard nailed his first three to get the visitors even closer, and Rubit made it a one-possession game, 48-47, soon after. Blazevic replied inside twice to give the hosts oxygen, but his unsportsmanlike foul on Hunter allowed Bayern to tie the game, 52-52. A timely three by Kalnietis got the Lithuanian champs back in front, 55-52, at the end of the third quarter.
Hunter completed a fastbreak with a monster alley-oop and Walden went for a three early in the fourth to get things all square, 57-57. Cavanaugh restored the lead for Zalgiris with a triple of his own, but the joy lasted only for a few seconds as Hilliard replied from deep twice plus adding a free throw to turn everything upside down and bring Bayern in front, 62-64, with 5 minutes to go. Zalgiris couldn’t make a single field goal for a long time, but survived thanks to the free-throw line. Nebo put Zalgiris back on top, 68-67, but Lucic drew a foul on a three-point attempt to make it 68-70 entering crunch time. Although Ulanovas tied it again, Bayern didn’t panic and found Thomas inside twice to take a 71-74 edge with 37 seconds remaining. The visitors had to wait a little bit more to secure the win, though, as Hunter missed twice from the line and allowed Lekavicius to make it 73-74 with 6 seconds to go. Zalgiris foul sent Lucic to the line, but the forward didn’t tremble and sealed the outcome with a free throw.
Lucic helps Bayern in first game back
After missing the first four games of the season, Vladimir Lucic returned to action in Kaunas and showed why he was selected to the All-EuroLeague team last season. Even though he admitted to being not even close yet to his maximum physically, Lucic became the top performer of the winning team with 17 points, 4 rebounds and 8 fouls drawn. He used his experience and cold-blooded mindset to overcome an average shooting night from deep and draw 8 fouls that he turned into as many points from the line. He proved decisive in crunch time, as he first nailed 3 free throws in a row to abort a Zalgiris Kaunas comeback at 68-70 and struck back later with another one that sealed the outcome, 73-75, with a few seconds on the clock.
Bayern’s defense made the difference in the end
Despite trailing by 16 points (39-23) late in the second quarter, Bayern didn’t give up and thrived after the break to complete a valiant comeback. With their backs against the wall, the visitors rebuilt their confidence through strong defense that only allowed 2 Zalgiris field goals -a three-pointer by Tyler Cavanaugh and a bucket by Lukas Lekavicius – in the last quarter. All 11 of Zalgiris's points in the last 5 minutes of the game came from the free-throw line, while the winners found many other scoring sources. Darrun Hilliard made some key threes to put Bayern back on top, DeShaun Thomas became the go-to guy with a couple of inside plays in the last 2 minutes and Lucic used the free-throw line when his team needed it most to secure the win.
Zalgiris controls the glass
Zalgiris Kaunas outrebounded Bayern 44-31, grabbing 16 offensive boards against the visitors’ 20 in defense. It wasn’t enough to claim the win, though, as the Lithuanian champs wasted too many possessions (13 turnovers) and missed too many field goals (22-of-58). Josh Nebo was a monster under the glass, collecting 13 rebounds and blocking 2 shots, and found unexpected help from youngster Marek Blazic, who seized the opportunity to make up for Zalgiris’s absences and recorded his best performance ever. He scored 8 points and grabbed as many rebounds in just 11 minutes on the court, showing he can be a reliable and dangerous weapon for his team in the near future.
Thursday, October 21, 2021