On this day two years ago, Zalgiris Kaunas rallied from an early double-digit deficit to earn a 78-87 overtime triumph over Olympiacos Piraeus at Peace and Friendship Stadium to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-five playoff series. It was the club's first playoff win of the century in an intense thriller that also saw Zalgiris flirt with a playoff shot-blocking record. And it proved to be a major step in club's return to the EuroLeague Final Four after a long hiatus.
First time for everything
Apart from this contest being the first EuroLeague Playoff game for Zalgiris since the format was reintroduced for the 2004-05 season, this series opener marked the first time ever that two teams met in the playoffs after also squaring off in the final game of the regular season. Zalgiris won that Round 30 contest 85-86 on Paulius Jankunas's game-winning tip-in with 2.9 seconds left in overtime. The two teams doubled-down on the rarities by achieving another first when they went into an extra session in this contest, too, with visiting Zalgiris winning in overtime once again.
Zalgiris overcomes Spanoulis's playoff-best
Olympiacos flew to an early 23-8 lead, but Zalgiris quickly halved the deficit. The Reds led 38-32 at halftime before the visitors went in front 45-46 midway through the third. Olympiacos briefly regained control with a 9-0 run only for Zalgiris to rally once more. The teams traded leads in the fourth quarter. A three-pointer from Vassilis Spanoulis forced overtime, but the visiting team dominated the extra period, finally surging to victory behind a spectacular Brandon Davies, who collected 21 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. Kevin Pangos shined with 20 points and 6 assists, while Arturas Milaknis made 4 three-pointers en route to sinking 16 points. Spanoulis set his playoff career-high with 25 points for Olympiacos. He shot 5 for 12 from three-point range and also dished 9 assists. Georgios Printezis added 12 points and Ioannis Papapetrou had 11.
Zalgiris made a difference with 8 blocked shots, which is tied for the third-most in a playoff game, one shy of a record and the most blocked shots in the playoffs since 2014. It also tied for the club's best shot-blocking effort in more than nine years. Five different Zalgiris players contributed to this mark, led by Davies's 3 blocks and 2 from Jankunas. Aaron White, Antanas Kavaliauskas and Edgaras Ulanovas each had 1 blocked shot on this night.
What happened next
Olympiacos bounced back two days later in Game 2 to tie the series at 1-1, but when the series moved to Kaunas, Coach Jasikevicius's troops went on to protect their home floor, winning Games 3 and 4, thus securing Zalgiris its first trip to the EuroLeague Final Four in almost two decades. However, at the 2018 Final Four in Belgrade, Zalgiris magical run was stopped in the semifinals by Fenerbahce Istanbul. Zalgiris finished third after holding off CSKA Moscow.