Wild last minute gives Zalgiris final home win, 76-70
A matter of pride between already-eliminated teams produced an entertaining game of swings as Zalgiris Kaunas hung on to beat visiting Crvenza Zvezda Telekom Belgrade 76-70 in its last home game of the Euroleague season on Friday. Zalgiris raised its Group E record to 5-8 while Zvezda fell to 3-10. The hosts followed Paulius Jankunas to a 13-point lead at halftime thanks to a 24-8 run over the last 7 minutes of the second quarter. Zvezda and Charles Jenkins won the third 11-28, however, setting up a wild finish. With a minute left, one of the plays of the season saw two saves lead to a long alley-oop from Will Cherry to James Anderson that decided the outcome in spectacular fashion. Jankunas had 19 points, Cheery 17, Arturas Milaknis 11 and Anderson10 to lead the winners. Zvezda center Boban Marjanovic registered his 15th double-double of the season , 14 points and 12 rebounds, to break a Euroleague record in that category. Marjanovic had been tied at 14 with Tanoka Beard, who had that many double-doubles for Zalgiris in the 2004-05 season.
First quarter: Defenses rule in slow start
Lukas Lekavicius hit the game's first shot for Zalgiris from the top of the lane, near where Marjanovic soon started Zvezda's scoring. The teams remained stuck at 2-2 for a couple minutes until Stefan Jovic hit free throws for the guests. After a five-minute Zalgiris drought, Jankunas blasted the game's first three-pointer for a 5-4 Zalgiris lead. Jaka Blazic's foul shots got the lead back for the guests before Marjanovic slammed back on offensive rebound to make it 5-8. Anderson and Milaknis got their first baskets for Zalgiris in close, but in between Marjanovic hit free throws and then Marcus Williams came off the bench with a triple to make it 9-12. Jankunas was left alone to answer for Zalgiris from long range and tie it up 12-12 after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Zalgiris rides wave to halftime
Free throws by Arturas Gudaitis got Zalgiris a lead again, but Zvezda subs Nemanja Dangubic and Maik Zirbes got their first baskets to take it back for the guests at 14-16. On a third-chance possession, Jenkins joined the Zvezda scorers with a stop-and-pop jumper that Gudaitis answered inside. Zirbes and Cherry made a free throw each, but the latter's second miss was rebounded by Robertas Javtokas and given back to him for an up-and-under layup and a 19-19 tie. When Anderson made an even niftier baseline scoop shot plus the free throw, Zalgiris was up 22-19. Zvezda took a timeout, after which Jovic tied it up with one shot from downtown. Jankunas kept the hosts ahead by hitting 4 of 4 free throw attempts before Marjanovic rejoined the scoring with a put-back. Milaknis also downed free throws and Anderson made a reverse past Marjanovic for a 31-24 Zalgiris lead that forced another Zvezda timeout. More free throws for Marjanovic settled the guests, but Milaknis beat the shot clock with a triple as the lead climbed again. When Anderson hit a free throw and Javtokas tipped in the second one, the lead was double digits, 37-26. Luka Mitrovic got a point back, but Siim-Sander Vene finished the Zalgiris onslaught with a three-pointer good for a 40-27 lead at the break.
Third quarter: Jenkins, Zvezda flip scoreboard
Nikola Kalinic went inside for his first basket before Jenkins followed with an open three-pointer for Zvezda to start the second half. Despite a Zalgiris timeout. Mitrovic joined the fun with a smooth layup at 40-34. A second Zalgiris pass in 3 minutes sailed into the stands before Kalinic sank 2 free throws. Jankunas finally ended his team's drought with a baseline jumper and then Milaknis put back his own miss to make it 44-36. Dangubic squared up for a three-pointer, Mitrovic repeated his earlier slicing layup and Jenkins drove for basket as the difference dwindled to 44-43. Marjanovic did the honors of completing the comeback with 2 free throws good for a 44-45 lead after a 4-18 start to the third quarter. Edgaras Ulanovas took the lead back at the foul line for Zalgiris, but only until Jenkins hit another open triple at 46-48. Marko Tejic joined the fun with a backdoor layup that Gudaitis matched with foul shots. Zirbes scored in close before Cherry got a rise out of the crowd with a triple to get Zalgiris within 51-52. But Dangubic and Jovic went 3 of 4 at the line to preserve a 51-55 Zvezda lead after 30 minutes.
Fourth quarter: Cherry leads Zalgiris charge to victory
Cherry continued on target with another triple to start the fourth quarter, then made and acrobatic layup between those of Blazic and Zirbes for Zvezda. Blazic then hit form downtown himself, prompting a Zalgiris timeout at 56-62. Darius Songaila got a basket back for Zalgiris, his first, before Cherry finished a fastbreak to make it 60-62. Now Zvezda called for a break in the action, after which Jenkins popped a jumper at 60-64. A big block by Gudaitis led to Cherry forcing a 64-64 tie on free throws with 5 minutes left. A tip-in by Mitrovic and another layup by Cherry kept it tied. But Blazic's single free throw was upstaged by Jankunas coming on to drill a corner triplle for a 69-67 Zalgiris edge. Marjanovic forged another tie with foul shots before Jankunas broke it from the baseline to make it 71-69. Going into the final minute, Zalgiris made a spectacular play with a pair of saves leading to a game-breaking alley-oop between Cherry and Anderson. That was followed by another triple from Milaknis, rewarding the Zalgiris crowd with something to remember at the conclusion of the last home game of their team's season.
Friday, April 3, 2015