Zalgiris holds off Fenerbahce in shocker
Zalgiris Kaunas bounced back in the best way possible, pulling out a thrilling 80-82 road win over Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul in Game 2 of their best-of-five playoff series. Zalgiris ended Fenerbahce's perfect home record this season and an 18-game home-court winning streak, but more importantly, tied the score at 1-1 in the series that now moves for Games 3 and 4 to Kaunas. Zalgiris led for the majority of the night and had a 17-point margin on four occasions late in the third quarter before Fenerbahce rallied and tied it at 80-80 in the final minute. But Edgaras Ulanovas scored what turned out to be a game-winning basket, fittingly, as he finished with a game-high 20 points and pulled down 7 rebounds. Nate Wolters had 12 of his 14 points in the first half and Brandon Davies scored 13 points in the victory. Luigi Datome paced the hosts with 17 points and 9 rebounds, Kostas Sloukas had 15 points and 6 assists, Jan Vesely scored 12 and Marko Guduric 11 in defeat.
Fenerbahce started hot, with Guduric connecting twice from downtown Nicolo and Melli also hitting a three-pointer to open a 13-6 lead. Fenerbahce scored on five of its first six possessions, but the visitors got it going themselves. Deon Thompson had a dunk and a jumper and Leo Westermann and Wolters hit from downtown in between to make it 15-18. Fenerbahce took a 21-20 lead into the second quarter after a three from Erick Green. Luigi Datome added one from long distance early in the second. But Ulanovas was active on the offensive glass and scored 6 points to make it 26-30 before a triple apiece from Arturas Milaknis and Wolters helped create a 30-40 margin. Zalgiris hit more triples through Westermann and Aaron White, but Vesely scored twice inside and Sloukas hit from the outside to make it 39-46 at halftime.
Marius Grigonis scored 7 points in the opening 3 minutes of the second half to establish a 42-55 margin before Walkup had a jumper and a coast-to-coast layup for a 46-63 lead with 4:30 left in the third. Datome gave Fenerbahce a spark, but Zalgiris was perfect converting from close range, with Davies scoring twice to keep the margin at 17 points. The visitors took a 58-73 cushion into the final quarter, but did not score a single point for almost 3 minutes, while Sloukas went coast-to-coast to cut it to 62-73. Fenerbahce kept its level of defense, not allowing any field goals, all while Datome hit a baseline jumper and Guduric added a corner triple to cut within 71-77. Ulanovas had a steal and a dunk to score first Zalgiris's field goal of the quarter with 3:18 left, but the hosts continued their charge and a tough layup by Vesely got Fenerbahce to 75-79 with 2:10 left. Sloukas and Vesely connected on an alley-oop dunk, and Datome nailed a jumper with 38.9 seconds to tie it at 80-80. After a timeout, however, Ulanovas beat the shot clock with a layup in traffic, before Guduric stepped out of bounds while trying to create a shot with 4.3 seconds to go. Datome had one last chance to win it for Fenerbahce, but his long off-balanced three only hit the front rim as Zalgiris celebrated a big upset.
Edgaras Ulanovas did just about everything in this victory, pulling Zalgiris throughout the night. He starred by making 9-of-10 field goals for the night and his 20 points were just 2 shy of his career-high. Ulanovas scored the only 2 fourth-quarter field goals for the Lithuanian champs, including the game-winner.
Zalgiris was perfect on 10 tries from two-point range in the third quarter, which it won 19-27.
Did you notice?
Fenerbahce lost its first home game of the season and its first playoff game at home under Coach Zeljko Obradovic after eight consecutive playoff wins dating back to 2015.
In Game 1, Zalgiris was held to 43 points, the club's all-time EuroLeague low and second-fewest in EuroLeague playoff history. In this game, Zalgiris matched that total already with 2:37 left in the second quarter on a three-pointer by Leo Westermann and surpassed it on the next possession with a triple from Aaron White.
The series now moves to Kaunas for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday. Zalgiris has won the only two previous home EuroLeague Playoffs games this century, while Fenerbahce is 5-1 on the road in the playoffs under Coach Zeljko Obradovic.
Thursday, April 18, 2019