Fenerbahce rallies in second half to beat Zalgiris
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul erased a 17-point third-quarter deficit before defeating visiting Zalgiris Kaunas 73-67 at Ulker Sports and Event Hall on Thursday night. The hosts trailed for 37 minutes, but never gave up and capped their rally with a 14-2 run in the last 4 minutes to get the win and improve their record to 9-10. Marko Guduric led the way with 19 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals for a PIR of 27, his best this season. He found great help from teammates Shemus Hazel, who scored all of his 13 points in the second half, and Achille Polonara, who had 10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Edgaras Ulanovas set the tone for the visitors with 16 points and 7 rebounds, Karolis Lukosiunas recorded career-highs in three-pointers made (5) and points (15) and Marek Blazevic signed off a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds for Zalgiris, which dropped to 3-15.
The hosts had a slow start in offense and were held scoreless for the first 4 minutes. As such, when Ahmet Duverioglu managed to score the first bucket for Fenerbahce, the visitors had already built a 2-9 lead behind points by Ulanovas, Mantas Kalnietis and Lukosiunas. Melih Mahmutoglu capped a fastbreak with a layup to help his team reduce the gap to 5, but those were the only points any team would score for a 4-minute span. Gururic broke the trend from downtown to make it a one-possession game, but Lukas Lekavicius and Josh Nebo contributed on the other side to push Zalgiris to 7-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Ulanovas opened fire once the game resumed to extend it to 7-15. Even though Tarik Biberovic found a three-point play to help his team, Zalgiris signed off a 0-6 run capped by a tip-in by Blazevic to raise the difference to double-digits, 10-21, midway through the second quarter. Dyshawn Pierre and Duvieroglu showed up to start the hosts’ scoring engine, as Polonara finished a fastbreak to bring the hosts within 20-25. Lekavicius kept the visitors calm with the first Zalgiris three-pointer, which Nebo followed with a pair of free throws to restore a safe margin at 20-30. Fenerbahce found some relief from Duvieroglu and Pierre, who scored a buzzer-beating court-to-court layup that kept Zalgiris in sight, 24-30, at halftime.
Lukosiunas connected from downtown right after the intermission, and Blazevic banked a tough inside basket first, then drilled a mid-range jumper to bring Zalgiris to a double-digit advantage at 24-37. Polonara ended Fenerbahce’s offensive drought with a layup, but Kalnietis and Lukosiunas drained back-to-back triples that ripped it to 26-43. Hazer came up with a three of his own and Booker provided a strong alley-oop dunk that woke up Fenerbahce. Guduric followed with a three-point play that kept the hosts in the game, 34-45, after 27 minutes. The Serbian guard continued rocking with 4 more points and an assist for Biberovic and Hazer made it even tighter, 44-48, soon after. Lukosiunas came to the rescue for Zalgiris, nailing a redeeming triple that allowed Zalgiris to enter the fourth quarter still ahead, 44-51.
Fenerbahce had a powerful start to the fourth thanks to Guduric and Hazer. The former nailed a three and the latter brought the fans to their feet with a monster off-the-steal dunk that got the hosts within 49-51. Zalgiris didn’t panic, though, as Lukosiunas, Niels Giffey and Ulanovas answered quickly with one triple each to cool it down, 51-60. But Fenerbahce had not said its last word. Hazer scored inside, Biberovic contributed a three-point play and Polonara hit twice from behind the arc to tie it at 62-62 and set the stands on fire with 4 minutes remaining. Guduric completed the rally and got Fenerbahce ahead for the first time with a free throw. Then Hazer added a corner three to send the game to crunch time with the hosts leading 66-64. Ulanovas seemed to bring Zalgiris to the winning track with a triple entering the last minute, but Guduric replied from the same distance on the next possession to make it 69-67 with 43 seconds remaining. Kalnietis tried to take over on the other side, but he missed a three and was called for an offensive foul later that granted Devin Booker the chance of sealing the comeback from the line.
Guduric made up for Fenerbahce’s absences
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul faced this game plenty of absences, missing several players and also Coach Sasa Djordjevic, but found a true leader in Marko Guduric. The Serbian guard took over for his team and completed his best game of the season by scoring 19 points, grabbing 4 boards, dishing 5 assists and getting 3 steals for a PIR of 27. He doubled his scoring average this season, contributing 16 points after halftime and becoming the key player in Fenerbahce’s second-half rally. He brought his team on top for the first time in the game with a free throw with 4 minutes remaining, 63-62, and hit a decisive three-pointer to make it 69-67 with 43 seconds to go that helped the hosts confirm the outcome.
Tale of two halves for Fenerbahce
The hosts went through an offensive nightmare in the first half, as they were held to 7 points after 10 minutes and reached halftime trailing 24-30. They shot 10-of-32 from the field in the first half and found themselves down by 17 points, 26-43, midway through the third quarter. Despite that, Fenerbahce never gave up and turned everything upside down by outscoring its opponent 29-16 in the last period to cap a historic comeback. The winners managed to score 24 of those in the last 7 minutes of the game, the same amount they had in the first 20.
Lukosiunas shines in Zalgiris’s defeat
Despite averaging less than 4 minutes per game so far this season for Zalgiris Kaunas, Karolis Lukosiunas seized the opportunity he was granted against Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul to prove his quality. He started for the first time this season and became one of the best weapons for the Lithuanian champs. He was Zalgiris’s second-best scorer with 15 points, nailing 5 three-pointers on 13 attempts, which were his personal bests. He took 15 shots overall, doubling the total number of shots (7) he tried in his seven previous games.
Thursday, January 20, 2022