Fenerbahce stifles Zalgiris in opener
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul showcased a stellar defensive performance to start the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs, beating visiting Zalgiris Kaunas 76-43 to take control of their best-of-five series. It marked the largest EuroLeague Playoffs win in Fenerbahce history and the fourth largest all-time, while Zalgiris set a club low for points scored in a EuroLeague game. Fenerbahce took the lead for good by finishing the first quarter with a 6-0 run and then used two more runs - 8-0 and 7-0 - to build a 38-21 halftime lead and never looked back. Nikola Kalinic led Fenerbahce with 16 points, Marko Guduric had 13, and Erick Green netted 12 points in a victory. Marius Grigonis was the only Zalgiris scorer in double figures with 10 points.
Guduric and Aaron White each scored first 5 points for their respective teams, including a triple apiece, before the visitors used a three-pointer from Arturas Milaknis during a 0-8 run to take a 9-13 lead. Fenerbahce's Jan Vesely and Nicolo Melli already found themselves in foul trouble, but Kalinic hit a jumper and Luigi Datome a corner triple to restore the hosts' lead, 15-13 after 10 minutes. A triple from Kalinic kept Fenerbahce in front before the same player added a pair of layups to extend the margin. Three-pointers form Ali Muhammed and Guduric pushed the difference to double figures, 31-19. Grigonis had a tough runner to end an 8-0 run, but Muhammed nailed another three and Guduric drove the baseline for a huge dunk as Fenerbahce finished the quarter with a 7-0 run to open a 38-21 halftime lead.
Zalgiris held the hosts without a field goal for more than 3 and a half minutes to start the third quarter, but when Kalinic ended the drought, he increased the margin to 42-24. Grigonis had a three-point play and Leo Westermann nailed a baseline jumper to cut into the deficit, but Kalinic knocked down a three-pointer and Kostas Sloukas drove to the basket as the difference went up to 49-30. Green extended it some more and Melih Mahmutoglu hit a last-second triple to give Fenerbahce a 59-35 lead going into the fourth quarter. The margin kept growing as Green and Datome hit from long range. Green's jumper-plus-foul made it 68-39. Fenerbahce never stopped, kept the intensity even when players from the end of the bench took the floor and registered a huge win.
Zalgiris had never scored fewer than 50 points in a EuroLeague game this century and Fenerbahce had never allowed fewer than 50 points before, but the 43 points scored by Zalgiris set a new mark for both teams. Also, 43 points were the second-fewest scored in a playoff game this century, behind only 41 by Montepaschi Siena in Game 1 of 2010-11 playoffs against Olympiacos Piraeus.
Zalgiris had a better start to the game, led 9-13 and forced Coach Zeljko Obradovic to call a timeout. In the next 12 minutes and 46 seconds of the first half, Fenerbahce went on a 29-8 charge in building a 38-21 halftime lead and Zalgiris never came closer than 14 the rest of the night.
Milestone (not) to remember
This game was the 200th EuroLeague appearance for Jan Vesely, but he will not remember it for anything other than playoff victory. He played less than 10 minutes and had fewer points (2, both from free throw line) and rebounds (2) than turnovers (3) and personal fouls (4).
Grigonis's streak ends
Marius Grigonis had made 54 straight free throws coming into this game and made one in the third quarter, but then missed both free throws with 20 seconds left in the third quarter. It ended his streak at 55 consecutive free throws made, 3 shy of the all-time record of 58, set by Igor Rakocevic in January 2009.
These two teams meet again on Thursday for Game 2, in less than 48 hours. Fenerbahce will be the host again, before the series moves to Kaunas for Game 3 on Tuesday, April 23.
Tuesday, April 16, 2019