Zenit withstands Monaco comeback to take road win
Zenit St Petersburg withstood a big comeback from AS Monaco to gain a 74-85 road win and cement its place in the playoffs positions. The visitors dominated the early stages and led by 17 points at the end of the first quarter, but the hosts responded strongly and it was 43-45 at half-time. Monaco – whose new coach Sasa Obradovic was making his home debut – had the better of the third quarter and held several narrow leads before Zenit went on a 0-11 run midway through the final period, and the visitors held on from there. Jordan Loyd was the key character, scoring 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, making all 5 of his three-point attempts. Billy Baron netted 19 points on 5-of-8 three-point shooting, and Arturas Gudaitis paired 15 points with 7 rebounds. Dwayne Bacon paced Monaco with 21 points, Danilo Andjusic scored 15 points, and Mike James had 8 points with 9 assists. Zenit improves to 10-6 while Monaco is now 6-10.
Loyd opened the scoring with a transition triple, before Mateusz Ponitka and Jordan Mickey netted inside as Zenit made a fast start with a 0-7 lead. Alpha Diallo got Monaco’s first basket with a long two but Gudaitis scored twice and Loyd added another triple for a 4-14 advantage. Bacon scored twice for Monaco but Baron hit a pair of triples, Sergey Karasev added another and Baron made three free throws to make it 14-31 after ten minutes. Bacon kept on powering the host with another pair of scores early in the second and Andjusic swished a threeball, but Alex Poythress followed a layup-and-one with a big slam to keep Zenit comfortable, 23-36. Andjusic again struck from distance and Bacon added another, making it 33-40 midway through the second. Will Thomas scored twice to keep narrowing the gap, James scored his first points with a layup and Bacon scored in transition to tie it up, 43-43. Zenit was only scoring free throws, and two of those from Gudaitis and Baron were enough for a 43-45 half-time lead.
Donatas Motiejunas opened the second half scoring and James hit a triple for Monaco’s first lead, 48-47. Ponitka’s tip-in forced another lead change and Gudaitis also scored off the offensive glass. A low-scoring passage of play saw Donta Hall’s free throw make it 51-51, before Brock Motum’s floater-and-one was cancelled out by a triple from Dmitry Kulagin. Andjusic scored the final basket of the third quarter, as a big block by Hall on the buzzer kept Monaco ahead, 57-56. A three-pointer from Yakuba Ouattara started the fourth quarter, before Baron, Bacon and Ponitka all made triples, leaving Monaco up 65-64 with six minutes remaining. Another Baron triple restored Zenit’s lead and Poythress dunked to make it 65-69. Loyd added a triple to complete a 0-11 run, but James scored a layup-and-one in transition to revive Monaco, 68-72. Poythress and Hall traded inside blows, before Loyd’s three-pointer made it 70-77 inside the final 2 minutes. Bacon gave Monaco hope from long-range, but Loyd hit a floater and then made a three-pointer and one to seal the win.
Zenit starts and finishes strong
Zenit’s offense was unstoppable in the first quarter, with 31 points coming on 67% two-point attempts and 86% from three-point range. But the next two quarters was a totally different matter with the visiting team limited to just 25 points over 20 minutes of play, including a run of more than 5 minutes without scoring a single field goal before half-time as Monaco turned a 13-point deficit into a tied game. However, Zenit eventually rediscovered its offense when it mattered the most, scoring 24 points in the last 7 minutes to take the win.
Three-point shooting lifts suffering Zenit
Zenit’s road win tasted even sweeter as it was achieved despite several personnel problems. Conner Frankamp missed the game through injury, Jordan Mickey was unable to finish after getting hurt during his 16 minutes on the floor, Mateusz Ponitka was hampered by a back problem but still played 28:30, while Jordan Loyd and Dmitry Kulagin were both suffering from illness. In the end it was three-point shooting that made the difference, as Zenit made 13-of-25 long-range shots (52%) including five apiece for Billy Baron and Loyd, while Monaco converted just 7-of-19 (36.8%) beyond the arc.
Bacon and Andjusic provide two-man offense
Monaco was a two-man offense for most of the home loss to Zenit. After making a very slow start it was Dwayne Bacon who sparked the hosts with two quick scores towards the end of the first quarter, adding another pair following early in the second. Then Danilo Andjusic got involved with a couple of three-pointers, and by the midway point of the second quarter 23 of the team’s first 33 points had been scored by those two players. A similar pattern remained throughout, with Monaco’s other ten players making just 15 field goals while Bacon and Andjusic scored 12 between them.
Friday, December 17, 2021