Zalgiris ends Zvezda streak in Belgrade
Zalgiris Kaunas put on a master class in intensity to steal a 70-76 road win over Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, breaking the latter's four-game winning streak. Zalgiris avoided falling into last place alone by tying three teams with 6-13 records. Zvezda fell to 9-10 but is still tied for the eighth and final playoff spot. Lukas Lekavicius led the winners with 17 points, while Zach LeDay added 10. Lorenzo Brown had 14 for Zvezda, which had led by 45-38 right after halftime. That's when Zalgiris responded with a 0-11 run to take control of the scoreboard the rest of the way.
Ognjen Kuzmic with a put-back and Branko Lazic on the break got Zvezda on the board before Arturas Milaknis hit 3 triples in an 0-11 response by Zalgiris. Kuzmic kept racking up offensive rebounds as Brown drained a triple, dunked off a steal and fed Borisa Simanic for a slam as Zvezda went ahead 14-13. They traded baskets and free throws until a driving layup by K.C. Rivers gave the visitors a 20-22 edge after 10 minutes. James Gist detonated a game-tying dunk before Rivers and Kevin Punter hit dueling triples and Ognjen Dobric copied them for a new Zvezda lead, 32-31. Again, a series of ties ensued. Thomas Walkup broke two of them for Zalgiris, but Vladimir Stimac evened the score 38-38 at the break. Simanic and Billy Baron drilled triples in a 7-0 Zvezda start to the third quarter for Zvezda before Jock Landale, Lekavicius and LeDay started and Edgaras Ulanovas completed an 0-11 run to a 45-49 Zalgiris lead. At that time, Zalgiris was using a full-court press that Brown finally broke with a corner triple at 50-50. Ulanovas broke the next tie from downtown and Lekavicius added free throws for a 53-57 Zalgiris advantage after 30 minutes. Zalgiris veteran Paulius Jankunas broke the all-time EuroLeague record with his 1,783rd rebound to start the final quarter, sending Nigel Hayes the other way for triple to which he added a layup for the game's high lead, 53-62. Gist's super slam was soon answered by Lekavicius from deep. Baron hit a long jumper that Walkup answered, but Baron was soon back with a fallaway triple to make it 61-66 with under 4 minutes left. Gist spiked an offensive rebound at 63-68, but Landale's three-point play gave Zalgiris breathing room. Zvezda got as close as 70-75 on a dunk by Brown with 33 second left, but Zalgiris made sure to take a good-as-gold road win back to Kaunas.
Zalgiris veteran Paulius Jankunas entered the game needing 3 rebounds to become the EuroLeague's all-time leader in that category. He got exactly that amount, including the record-breaker on the first miss of the fourth quarter, to reach 1,783 for his career, one ahead of Real Madrid's Felipe Reyes.
In a game with just three double-digit scorers, Lukas Lekavicius was good as gold most of the night, hitting 4 of 6 two-pointers, 1 of 2 from the arc and all 6 of his free throws for a game-high 17 points. He has now averaged 20.3 points off the bench in the last three games for Zalgiris.
Zvezda came out and broke a 38-38 halftime score with the first 7 points of the third quarter. Following a timeout, however, Zalgiris hit right back as Landale scored twice, Lekavicius hit from deep, LeDay added a put-back and Ulanovas capped the visitors' second 0-11 run of the game. This one lasted under 3 minutes and put Zvezda on its heels the rest of the way.
In the first of those 0-11 runs, Arturas Milaknis of Zalgiris celebrated his 200th EuroLeague game early, hitting 3 three-pointers -- his specialty -- as the visitors recovered quickly from a 4-0 Zvezda start.
Zvezda committed a season-low 7 turnovers, which combined with its 11-4 offensive rebounding advantage, gave the hosts 11 more possessions than Zalgiris. It was all for naught, however, as Zvezda ended up hitting one fewer two-pointer, three-pointer and free throw than the visitors for a six-point difference.
Both teams turn around in 48 hours to play Round 20 on Friday. Zalgiris flies on to Athens to face Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, the former team of its coach, Sarunas Jasikevicius. Zvezda stays in Belgrade to face, ALBA Berlin, one of the bottom four teams alongside Zalgiris.
Wednesday, January 15, 2020