Partizan outlasts Lietkabelis
Partizan NIS Belgrade bounced back from its first loss of the season last week by holding off visiting Lietkabelis Panevyzis 84-77 at Stark Arena on Wednesday night. Even though the hosts were never behind and enjoyed double-digit margins several times after halftime, they needed to wait till the last minute to celebrate a victory that lifted their record to 4-1. Zach LeDay led six Partizan scorers in double figures with 19 points. Alen Smmailagic posted a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds for a PIR of 20, all of them career-best. Gregor Glas also scored 13, Aleksa Avramovic and Bolsa Koprivica provided 12 each and Kevin Punter poured in 11, including the decisive bucket with 12 seconds to go. Gedeminas Orelik paced Lietkabelis with 19 points, followed by Kaspars Berzins and Kristupas Zemaitis, who scored 12 apiece. Vytenis Lipkevicius flirted with a triple-double as he posted 7 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists for the visitors, who dropped to 2-3.
Defense prevailed over offense in the early going as only Punter managed to score in the opening 2 minutes. LeDay took over to run the show for Partizan, scoring a couple of buckets and feeding Avramovic for a three that made it 11-5 midway through the first quarter. LeDay kept rocking and contributed a pair of free throws and a corner three to boost the lead to 16-8. Lietkabelis found some relief in offense from long distance, as Zemaitis hit his team's first triple. Punter added 2 free throws to make it 20-11, but Partizan remained scoreless for 2 minutes. Berzins helped the guests with another three to close the first quarter at 20-14.
Berzins kept on rolling early in the second, as he nailed another three and blocked Dallas Moore to allow Lietkabelis to stay sewed to the game, 20-17. Punter stepped up with 5 points in a row to cool it down for Partizan, which led 25-17 after 13 minutes. Glas made it a double-digit margin from behind the arc, 30-20, as the visitors were unable to build momentum on offense. Zemaitis and Orelik showed up with back-to-back triples to try to change the trend, but Partizan found a timely answer from Glas, who drilled back-to-back threes that forced an urgent timeout by Lietkabelis at 36-26. Orelik and Zemaitis extended the three-point trend with one each. Berzins followed with a couple of free throws to bring the visitors within 36-34 and Maldunas made it even tighter, 39-38, to send the game to the locker room.
Partizan stepped up on defense after the break, allowing just 2 points in four minutes, for a 10-2 run capped by a monster put-back slam by Koprivica that restored a safe margin for the hosts, 50-40. Avramovic and Koprivica combined to dig it deeper, 54-42, but Lietkabelis refused to surrender so early. Orelik scored a bucket and Kalaitzakis took advantage of an offensive rebound to drill a three that Zemaitis followed with another of his own to get the visitors within 54-50. A 9-3 run for the home team seemed to abort the rally, but Maldunas and Orelik combined to keep Lietkabelis in the game, 66-60, entering the last period.
Partizan came up strong when the game resumed, sparking a 7-0 run behind buckets by Smailagic, Glas and Moore to try to escape, 73-60, with 8 minutes remaining. Kalaizakis found a triple right after a Lietkaelis timeout, but those were the only points in the game for a couple of minutes. Partizan’s struggles on offense were exploited by Orelik, who got the visitors within 73-66 midway through the quarter. Avramovic ended the drought from the line and Smailagic hit from deep to help the hosts stay calm, 78-69. A long three by Radicevic, followed by another one from the corner by Orelik took the game to the line once again, 80-77, entering crunch-time. Orelik and Radicevic had the chance to tie the game in the last minute, but missed one triple each that allowed Punter to score a decisive floater with 12 seconds to go to seal the outcome.
Punter takes over to finish the job
Even though Partizan never trailed in the game, it didn’t feel safe for a single moment as Lietkabelis never surrendered and took the game to the wire in the last period. The hosts dominated all game long thanks to a solid contribution by several players. Six out of the eight players Coach Zeljko Obradovic used during the contest scored in double-figures, allowing the hosts to have a good balance and find different solutions on offense. Zach LeDay had 19, Alen Smailagic 14 and Aleksa Avramovic and Balsa Koprivica scored 12 each, but the one who had the final decision was the one that scored the least of that group. Kevin Punter was the first one to get a bucket in the game and was the chosen one to close it when he solved a one-on-one situation with a contested floater that made it 82-77 with 12 seconds to play.
Three-point shooting wasn’t enough for Lietkabelis
Despite finishing with 14 threes on 34 attempts (41.2%), Lietkabelis Panevyzis fell short in the end and couldn’t cap a late rally that got it within 80-77 with less than 2 minutes to go. The visitors survived several runs by Partizan, trailing by double-digit disadvantages several times into the game. Each time the hosts tried to escape, Lietkabelis found a timely answer from behind the arc. Four three-pointers in a row helped the guests make up for a 30-20 first-half score and reach halftime down 39-38. Later, when its opponent built a 73-60 early in the last period, back-to-back threes by Kalaitzakis and Orelik kept the game alive. And, when Glas made it 80-71 in the final stage, Radicevic and Orelik made it a one-possession game entering crunch time. Unfortunately for Lietkabelis, the last two attempts from deep, which could have tied the game, didn’t go in and opened the door for Partizan’s victory.
By the numbers: Partizan won the rebounding battle
Lietkabelis Panevyzis entered this game with a solid reputation as a good rebounding team. It had enjoyed an average rebounding advantage of 9.3 per game and was third in the competition in offensive rebounds with 12.5 per game. Even though it lived up to the expectations and grabbed 10 offensive boards and made 22 points from them - compared to Partizan’s 14 from 13, it was outrebounded by Partizan 38-28. Securing the glass was one of the crucial points Lietkabelis’s head coach pointed out as a crucial factor after the game, and nobody would dare to doubt that statement when it comes from the losing side.
Wednesday, November 17, 2021