Zenit holds on to sweep Efes
Zenit St Petersburg led all game long but needed to withstand a big Anadolu Efes Istanbul rally to win 85-78 on Thursday at Sibur Arena, completing a sweep in their head-to-head regular season series. With seven players scoring in double figures, Zenit registered its fifth win in the last six games, improving to a 13-6 record, while Efes dropped to 11-10 on the season. Zenit took control and led by double digits in the first quarter before knocking down 6 triples in the second to open a 23-point margin that was still 53-31 at halftime. But Efes rallied in the third quarter behind Vasilije Micic and quickly got within 59-53 to make it a game. The visitors would never got closer than 5 points the rest of the way, however, as Billy Baron and Kevin Pangos hit important three-pointers when Efes was dangerously close. Will Thomas scored 14 points to lead Zenit and Arturas Gudaitis had a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Pangos and Austin Hollins netted 13 points apiece, Andrey Zubkov scored 12, while Mateusz Ponitka and Baron each had 10 points in victory. Micic had 23 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists to lead Efes and Shane Larkin scored 20 points. Bryant Dunston added 10 points plus 9 rebounds, while Chris Singleton scored 10.
Zenit had 3 dunks as Thomas scored 6 points in a game-opening 8-0 run. Singleton hit a triple for the visitors and Micic scored 5 points, including a three-point play, to cut the difference to 12-8. But Ponitka took it inside and Pangos orchestrated a pair of perfect fastbreaks to open a 20-8 Zenit lead. Larkin hit a three-pointer and Sertac Sanli scored twice for Efes before Baron's reverse layup made it 28-15 after 10 minutes. Micic had another layup-plus-foul to start the second quarter and Sanli battled on the offensive boards to get Efes within single digits. Hollins answered with three triples in an 11-0 run to open a 41-22 lead midway through the second quarter. Zubkov's back-to-back threes extended the margin to 47-24 before Singleton snapped a 17-2 Zenit breakaway with a three-pointer, which was the first field goal for Efes after nearly 6 minutes. Micic and Larkin made tough layups, then a triple from Pangos kept Zenit ahead 53-31 at halftime.
Larkin, Micic and Singleton scored the first 6 points of the third quarter before Pangos dished to Gudaitis for a dunk. Micic strung together 7 points, including a triple that cut the margin 57-47 midway through the third quarter. Things were moving at a fast pace until a three-pointer from Larkin got the visitors within 59-53, but Zubkov answered with a three-point play before Dunston and Hollins traded shot-clock-beating baskets to make it 64-55 at the end of the third. Zenit opened the final quarter with a pair of fastbreak baskets. Dunston answered with a pair inside, but Baron hit from long range and made foul shots to increase the lead to 75-59 with under 5 minutes to go. Adrien Moerman and Larkin hit second-chance three-pointers on consecutive trips down the floor, before Larkin's layup-plus foul cut it to 75-70 with 2:29 to go, giving Efes hope. However, Pangos snapped Efes's 0-9 run with a triple and, after Ponitka's tip-in, hit another three at 83-72 going into the last minute, assuring the victory.
Seven of Zenit's eight scorers finished with at least 10 points. Will Thomas scored 10 in the opening 7:30 of the game. Austin Hollins was on fire in the second quarter. Arturas Gudaitis had a big first half and reached a double-double after 4 minutes in the third quarter. And Kevin Pangos hit a pair of huge threes to ice the game late.
Surviving a rebounding deficit
Zenit had been allowing just 8.8 offensive rebounds, the second-fewest in the EuroLeague. Nonetheless, Efes pulled down 18 offensive boards in this game, including 11 in the first half. Remarkably, despite those problems on the defensive glass, Zenit held a 22-point halftime lead.
Zenit head coach Xavi Pascual now holds 10-1 record against Efes head coach Ergin Ataman, with all games coming in the last eight years. This win brought Zenit an all-important regular season sweep, which Zenit now holds against two of its fellow playoff contenders: Efes and Zalgiris Kaunas.
In a key second quarter, Zenit hit 6 of its 7 three-point tries, with Austin Hollins knocking down three in a row, then Andrey Zubkov hitting back-to-back from deep before Kevin Pangos nailed his own triple, too. Efes, meanwhile, missed its first 8 long-range attempts in that quarter and shot 1-for-11 during those 10 minutes, letting the hosts stake a high lead of 23 points that proved the difference.
Both teams will be back in action again next Tuesday in Round 22, the first of a double-round week. Efes hosts Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade while Zenit travels to visit FC Barcelona.
Thursday, January 21, 2021