Zalgiris erases 15-point deficit to beat Maccabi
Zalgiris Kaunas rallied from a 15-point third-quarter deficit to defeat Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv 73-68 in front of a sell-out crowd of 15,500 at Zalgirio Arena. Lukas Lekavicus scored a season-high 20 points to pace the Lithuanian champs, who won their second straight game to improve to 5-12 at the midway point of the regular season. Arturas Milaknis, Zach LeDay and Edgaras Ulanovas each added 10 for the winners, who used an 18-0 run bridging the third and fourth quarters to storm back into the game and take the lead for good. Jake Cohen paced Maccabi with a career-high 20 points and Tyler Dorsey scored 18, but both fouled out in the closing minutes. The loss was the second in a row for the Israeli champs, whose recorded dipped to 11-6.
Maccabi got threes from three different players from its first four possessions in jumping out to a 6-11 start. Martinas Geben battled hard to keep the hosts close, but Jake Cohen heated up to extend the Maccabi lead to 11-19. Free throws by LeDay helped Zalgiris close the gap to 17-21 after 10 minutes. Zalgiris tied the game at 23-23 on a three-pointer by Ulanovas and took its first lead through a Lekavicius jumper on the hosts’ next possession. However, Maccabi called a timeout, brought Dorey back into the game and the guard nailed a pair of three-pointers as the visitors reeled off the next 11 points to regain control, 25-34. Free throws by Thomas Walkup drew Zalgiris within 29-34 at the break.
Maccabi scored the first 10 points of the second half to silence the once-boisterous Zalgiris crowd and take the first double-digit margin of the game. After a triple by Lekavicius and a jumper by Nigel Hayes, Coach Sfairopoulos called timeout to reset his Maccabi troops. Nevertheless, Zalgiris continued its charge. K.C. Rivers and Lekavicius started an 11-0 run that LeDay ended to tie the game at 53-53 at the end of the third quarter. Ulanovas scored to start the fourth quarter and give Zalgiris the lead. Lekavicius scored the next 6 points to make it 61-53. Jake Cohen scored a pair of quick buckets to get Maccabi back in the game. A series of free throws by Dorsey drew the visitors within 64-63 with more than 4 minutes to play. Dorsey fouled out with more than 2 minutes remaining and Jake Cohen followed with 40 seconds left. Lekavicius sank free throws that all but sealed the game at 70-65.
Zalgiris took advantage of Maccabi's season-high 19 turnovers to score 26 points. The hosts also got to the foul line 30 times and made 24 of their shots (80%), which helped make up for a subpar shooting night on two-pointers (37.8%).
Love for Lekavicius #GameON pic.twitter.com/ZU7P8HYbP1
Zalgiris reserves lead the way
Lekavicius outscored the entire Maccabi bench by himself. The Zalgiris second unit went for 45 points, compared to just 17 from Maccabi's reserves.
Maccabi's short rotation
Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos faced this game once again with a short rotation after Scottie Wilbekin and Othello Hunter were ruled out with injuries. They joined Tarik Black, Omri Casspi, Nate Wolters and John DiBartolomeo among Maccabi's sidelined players. That list includes Maccabi's top-five scorers. Reinforcements arrived in the form of Jalen Reynolds, who made his EuroLeague debut, and Aaron Jackson, who played his first EuroLeague game since the third-place game at the 2017 Final Four. However, the new faces only had a handful of practices with the team and did not make a major impact in this game.
Jankunas closes in on rebounding record
With 3 rebounds in the game, Paulius Jankunas took his career total to 1,778, which is 4 away from the EuroLeague's career record help by Real Madrid big man Felipe Reyes.
Did you notice?
When Zalgiris sharpshooter Arturas Milaknis entered the game 4 minutes into the first quarter, it marked the 165th consecutive game he played in the EuroLeague. That broke his tie with J.R. Holden for the third-longest such streak this century. The longest streak is 209 games by Nikos Zisis with Fran Vazquez second at 183.
Both teams begin the second half of the regular season on the road. Maccabi plays its third straight game outside of Tel Aviv when it visits ALBA Berlin on Thursday, January 9. Zalgiris will be in the Spanish capital that same night for a date with Real Madrid.
Thursday, January 2, 2020