Top-of-the-table Zalgiris rocks Efes
Zalgiris Kaunas remained atop the EuroLeague standings by demolishing the team with the best record from last season, Anadolu Efes Istanbul, 89-73 on Thursday evening in its home opener at Zalgirio Arena. The Lithuanian champs led from tip to buzzer in improving to 4-0 on the season while dropping struggling Efes to 1-3. Nigel Hayes led five Zalgiris scorers in double figures with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals. Marius Grigonis and Lukas Lekavicius scored 12 points apiece, Joffrey Lauvergne posted 10 points and 8 rebounds and Arturas Milaknis also scored 10 for the victors. Bryant Dunston came up big with 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting, 4 assists and 2 blocks to lead Efes, Krunoslav Simon compiled 16 points and 6 assists and Rodrigue Beaubois added 12 in defeat.
The fans had plenty to cheer about early as Hayes and Grigonis knocked down three-pointers for a 6-2 start. Hayes remained hot with a jumper and another triple to make it 13-5 midway through the first quarter. Tibor Pleiss provided most of the Efes resistance, but Zalgiris remained in control as both teams started to turn to their second units. Lekavicius fed Rokas Jokubaitis for a fastbreak layup on the buzzer to make it 25-16 after 10 minutes. The Efes attack found its rhythm in the first few minutes of the second quarter, but Zalgiris matched it basket for basket. Things changed when Adrien Moerman drilled back-to-back three-pointers to bring Efes within 32-31. Dunston's second block of the night ignited a fastbreak that saw Zalgiris tie it at 35-35 on a layup by Simon. Lauvergne scored twice as the hosts regained the lead and went into halftime up 41-35.
Zalgiris opened the second half with a bang as Lauvergne threw-down an alley-oop slam and Hayes converted on his third three of the night for a double-digit lead. Efes found its footing and the teams started to trade baskets in what became a high-scoring quarter. Dunston drew the visitors within 57-53 only for Steve Vasturia to respond with a three-pointer-plus-foul. Lekavicius's floater in transition pushed the margin back to 10 and prompted an Efes timeout. A layup by Vasturia made it 66-55 through three quarters. Zalgiris did not let up with the lead swelling as Lekavicius set up Martinas Geben for a slam and then nailed a three. Milaknis's layup stretched the margin to 75-58. Geben put the difference into the 20s with a layup with 4 minutes remaining. The lead peaked at 87-65 on a Grigonis triple with 3 minutes remaining as Zalgiris wrapped up a convincing victory.
Nigel Hayes went off for 11 points in the first quarter to stake Zalgiris to a lead it would not relinquish. The forward finished with 17 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals for a performance index rating of 23. Both the points and PIR tallies represented the second-best of his EuroLeague career.
Stats that tell a story
The two teams each committed 11 turnovers, however, the hosts turned their opponent’s miscues into 18 points while Efes generated only 7 points off Zalgiris turnovers. The other big difference on the stat sheet was three-point shooting; Zalgiris was 10 for 19 (52.6%) with four players making multiple threes: Nigel Hayes (3 for 5), Lukas Lekavicius (2 for 2), Arturas Milaknis (2 for 2) and Marius Grigonis (2 for 4). Efes was 8 for 25 (32%) from downtown.
Milaknis leaves his mark on the books
Arturas Milaknis made history with a pair of three-pointers that saw him leapfrog Dimitris Diamantidis for 11th place on the all-time charts for triples made. Milaknis, who made both shots in a short period in the second quarter, is up to 373 three-pointers for his career. It may not take him long to move into the top 10: the tenth place is held by CSKA Moscow legend J.R. Holden with 377. No player ahead of Milaknis on the charts has a better career shooting percentage than his 42.4%.
Dunston becomes co-king of blocks
Bryant Dunston produced one of the best games of his career with 20 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks for a performance index rating of 32, which was 1 off his career-best. The blocks gave him 249 for his career to tie Fran Vazquez for the most in EuroLeague history. Dunston can become the king of blocked shots as soon as his next game.
After starting its season with three straight road games, Zalgiris will remain home for a while as it hosts Valencia Basket in Round 5 on Thursday, October 22. Efes will also be home next week for a date with LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne the following evening.
Thursday, October 15, 2020