Real outguns winless Zalgiris, improves to 7-2
Real Madrid led from start to finish in a fast-paced high-scoring affair, using seven double-digit scorers to protect its home floor against Zalgiris Kaunas 95-82 on Friday night. Real improved to 7-2 record, a win behind the first-placed AX Armani Exchange Milan, while Zalgiris remains the only winless team, dropping to 0-9. Real took the lead from the get-go, and built a 15-point lead in the second quarter. But Lukas Lekavicius got Zalgiris going, and the visitors found a three-point to get right back in the game until the midway point of the fourth quarter. Guerschon Yabusele paced Real with 15 points and 6 rebounds. Sergio Llull scored 13, Thomas Heurtel had 12 points and 5 assists, and Vincent Poirier also scored 12. Rudy Fernandez, Adam Hanga and Walter Tavares scored 10 points apiece. Tyler Cavanaugh scored 14 for Zalgiris, while Lekavicius netted 12 points and dished 10 assists. Niels Giffey also scored 12, and Marek Blazevic had 10 points in the losing effort.
Real opened the game with an 8-0 run taking the ball inside through Tavares and Yabusele. Zalgiris needed more than 3 minutes to score, but a pair of baskets from Blazevic and a triple from Zoran Dragic cut it to 10-9. Tavares dunked to keep Real with the lead, and Hanga beat the shot-clock with a three-pointer to spark a 6-0 run that put Real up 20-11 after 10 minutes. Arturas Milaknis and Edgaras Ulanovas hit back-to-back triples early in the second quarter, and a triple by Tai Webster cut it to 24-20. But Fernandez hit a pair of tough triples to extend the margin back to 32-24, before more triples rained, one apiece from Giffey and Dragic for the visitors, while Llull sunk a pair for the hosts. A dunk-plus foul from Tristan Vukcevic helped open 47-32, but Lekavicius scored 8 unanswered points. A triple from Cavanaugh also helped Zalgiris, and a buzzer-beating runner from Janis Strelnieks saw the visitors cut it to 51-45 at halftime.
Alberto Abalde and Heurtel got Real off on the right foot in the third quarter, with the latter's three-point play giving Real 60-49. But Lekavicius had one of his floaters and fed Blazevic for another one, before Webster banked a triple to make it 62-56. Heurtel and Milaknis traded triples, before Giffey and Cavanaugh knocked down back-to-back from long range, the visitors' 11th and 12th triples, to cut it to 67-65. Yabusele and Tavares answered with a dunk apiece, making sure Real stayed in front, and it was 75-70 after 30 minutes. Giffey's jumper to open the fourth quarter cut the deficit to just 3 points, but a dunk from Hanga fueled a 6-0 run to give the hosts some breathing room. Cavanaugh hit a three-pointer at the buzzer, but Llull nailed a transition three to open 86-77 with 5:22 to go. Gifey's jumper and a triple from Strelnieks gave the visitors hope, but Hanga also nailed one from downtown and Fernandez stole the ball from Lekavicius and went on a fast break for a layup to make it a 93-80 margin, icing the game.
Key stats in Real's win
Real scored 95 points against Zalgiris, its season high and tied for fourth most by any team this season. And Pablo Laso's men did it with a remarkable offensive balance. Real had seven players scoring between 10 and 15 points, with Guerschon Yabusele leading the way. And not only that, Real also dished 21 assists with nine different players providing at least 1 assist. Real made 65% of its two-point shots, and outrebounded the visitors 37-29. It also had just 8 turnovers, which all helped hold off Zalgiris' three-point barrage throughout the second and third quarters, during which the visitors hit 10-of-17 long range-shots, while making just 3 of 14 in the other two quarters.
Llull's three-point milestone
Real playmaker and captain Sergio Llull, a former Turkish Airlines EuroLeague MVP, reached a career milestone on Friday night, making his 500th career three-point shot. Llull entered the game with 497 for his career, then hit a pair of triples in the second quarter. He knocked down his 500th three-point shot with 5:22 left in the game, a transition triple that made it 86-75, and finally broke Zalgiris resistance. Llull became the fifth player in EuroLeague history to hit at least 500 triples for his career.
Another Real player who moved up in the rankings was Thomas Heurtel, who dished 5 assists to move into sole possession of fourth place on the all-time charts. Heurtel now has 1,260 for his career.
Zalgiris' valiant effort in Madrid
Not much during the game against Real Madrid would have suggest that Zalgiris is the lone winless team in the EuroLeague this season, and it is missing three big men – Joffrey Lauvegne and Paulius Jankunas being out long-term from earlier, and starting center Josh Nebo scratched due to an ankle injury. Despite that, Zalgiris kept coming back throughout the game, knocking down 13 triples and dishing 21 assists, both season-highs.
Zalgiris had a 9-point first-quarter deficit, then a 15-point second-quarter deficit, and was down by 11 in the third quarter. But Zalgiris rallied back each time. However, it was not enough when the long-range shots stopped falling in the fourth quarter.
Friday, November 12, 2021