Milaknis buries big shots as Zalgiris claims 100th Euroleague win
Zalgiris Kaunas held on late to beat Panathinaikos Athens 76-70 for the club’s 100th Euroleague victory this century. Zalgiris improved to 4-6 and fifth place in Top 16 Group E, while Panathinaikos remains in fourth at 5-5. The hosts led by as many as 14 early in the third quarter, but Nikos Pappas led the Greens all the way back. The score was tied on three occasions in the fourth quarter and Pappas gave the visitors a slim lead, but Arturas Milaknis buried back-to-back threes to put his team up 70-66 with three minutes to go and the Lithuanian champs held on the rest of the way. Will Cherry paced the Zalgiris attack with 18 points, Paulius Jankunas added 14, James Anderson 13 and Milaknis 12 – all on threes. Pappas paced Panathinaikos with 21 points, Vlantimir Giankovits added 11 and Esteban Batista finished with 10.
First quarter: Defensive stand helps hosts to early lead
There seemed to be a lid on the rim early as neither team scored for two-and-a-half minutes until Jankunas broke the ice with a jump shot. Cherry added a three-pointer before Dimitris Diamantidis found a cutting Batista for a slam and the visitors’ first points. Jankunas banked in a shot to make it 7-2. Giankovits and A.J. Slaughter went hard to the basket to bring the Greens within 1. After a TV timeout, Anderson buried a three. Batista scored in transition and Jankunas matched him to make it 12-8. Batista muscled his way to another bucket before Robertas Javtokas scored inside for the hosts. Milaknis completed a four-shot minute-long possession with a three-pointer. Nikos Pappas also hit from downtown to make it 17-13.
Second quarter: Cherry carries Zalgiris to double-digit advantage
Anderson kept the hosts in charge after he grabbed an offensive rebound, drew a foul and sank 2 shots. Pappas went through the Zalgiris defense for a layup, but Lukas Lekavicius answered with a long pull-up jumper. Panathinaikos closed to within 21-18 on a Pappas layup and DeMarcus Nelson free throw. Siim-Sander Vene recorded a layup-plus-foul thanks to a great pass from Darius Songaila. Nelson picked up a steal and lobbed a pass to Gani Lawal for a monster slam. Edgaras Ulanovas drilled an open triple to set a 28-20 advantage midway through the quarter. Cherry scored and Anderson dunked on the break for a 12-point lead. Antonis Fotsis stopped the bleeding with the triple, but Cherry responded with a pair of triples sandwiched around a Batista bucket inside. Batista added another slam and reached 10 individual points. Jankunas and Diamantidis each split free throws to end the half at 39-28.
Third quarter: Pappas rescues Greens from 14-point deficit
Milaknis sank a three to give the hosts their biggest lead yet, 42-28, but Giankovits responded with back-to-back threes. Zalgiris used a timeout, but the momentum had shifted. James Gist fought his way to a layup and Pappas sank a triple. Gist scored again to cap a 0-13 run. Cherry scored a tough layup in the paint – and the free throw that came within it – and then Javtokas scored in the paint to restore a 6-point cushion. Diamantidis scored his first basket only to see Jankunas knock down an open three. Pappas responded with a pair of threes to get within a single point. Vene’s basket was matched by Loukas Mavrokefalides. Then Pappas split free throws to tie the score at 52-52. The stalemate remained for over a minute - Giankovits missed twice from the line – as both teams missed shots. Mavrokefalides gave Panathinaikos its first lead with a three, but Anderson’s triple tied it at 55-55.
Fourth quarter: Milaknis buries the big shots
Songaila’s second chance basket and a Vene jumper were both matched by Gist to keep the score tied. Anderson was fouled by Giankovits – his fourth – shooting a three and made the resulting 3 shots for a 62-59 Zalgiris edge. Mavrokefalides drove for a tough layup, which Jankunas countered with a jump shot. Giankovits buried a three from the top of the key to make it 64-64 with five minutes remaining. Pappas gave the Greens a slim lead again, but a Milaknis three on the shot-clock buzzer brought the crowd to its feet at 67-66. Milaknis’s fourth three of the night came with three minutes left and put the difference at 4. Diamantidis and Cherry traded layups. Milaknis fouled out with 1:27 remaining. Cherry added free throws for a 6-point edge with 39 seconds to go. Nelson missed twice from the line with 25 seconds left, but Ulanovas missed 2 too. Pappas drove for a layup with 15 seconds remaining. Giankovits fouled out and Jankunas all but iced the game with the resulting free throws with 14.4 seconds to go.
Friday, March 13, 2015