Barca's D lets Jasikevicius win Kaunas return
FC Barcelona used a strong defensive performance to stop host Zalgiris Kaunas 62-73 and retain exclusive hold on first place in head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius's return to his beloved former club. Brandon Davies, another prominent former Zalgiris figure, led Barcelona with 16 points off the bench and Kyle Kuric added 15 points in a reserve role as Barcelona took over the game with a 2-13 run in the fourth quarter. Nick Calathes chipped in 6 points, 5 rebounds, 10 assists and 3 steals in the win, which pushed Barcelona to a 9-2 record. Zalgiris has now dropped six games in a row to fall to 5-7 after a 5-1 start. Rokas Jokubaitis evened his career high of 15 points to lead the way for Zalgiris while Nigel Hayes picked up 10 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Marius Grigonis was held to a season-low 5 points, 10.3 points below his season average.
Pierre Oriola's reverse layup plus scores by Calathes and Nikola Mirotic led to an early 0-6 Barca lead. Zalgiris missed 5 shots and committed 3 turnovers before Thomas Walkup scored the hosts' first basket off the glass after more than 4 minutes. Barca committed 4 turnovers that allowed Zalgiris to pull ahead 11-10. Davies calmed the visitors with 4 points and Rolands Smits hit a three-pointer to keep Barca ahead 14-17 after 10 minutes. Kuric's three-pointer increased the gap to 16-22 before Zalgiris got 6 points back, trimming the gap to 22-24. Kuric added 5 more points including his second triple as the advantage grew to 22-29. Jokubaitis stepped up his play, twice feeding Joffrey Lauvergne and then throwing down a dunk as the margin was down to 30-32. Davies led a 3-7 finish to the first half for a 33-39 Barca edge at the break. Cory Higgins knocked down a three-pointer in a 0-7 spurt for Barca to start the second half by moving ahead 33-46. Zalgiris needed more than 2 minutes until Lukas Lekavicius finally scored, but 5 straight points by Davies extended the gap to 42-55. Zalgiris ended the third quarter with a 6-0 run to pull within 48-55. Davies opened the fourth quarter and then Hayes hit Zalgiris's first three-pointer after the team had missed its first 11 tries from deep. Walkup followed for back-to-back triples to make it 54-57. Jokubaitis was open on the break but missed a dunk which could have made it a one-point game and Kuric punished the hosts with a three-pointer. Barcelona delivered the knockout punch with a 2-13 run that included a pair of threes from Alex Abrines to go ahead 58-73 with less than 2 minutes to play and decide the game.
Kings of thievery
Despite losing the game, Zalgiris collected 16 steals, matching the most thefts by any team in a EuroLeague game since CSKA Moscow on December 16, 2016. Since then only one team had even picked up 15 steals, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in the 2017-18 season.
The end of a streak
The end of the second quarter saw a novelty as Zalgiris's Marius Grigonis missed a free throw for the first time this season, snapping his run of 41-for-41 going into the game.
Zalgiris came into the game as the EuroLeague's top three-point shooting team at 41.1%. But this time around, the hosts missed their first 11 three-point attempts. Zalgiris ended up hitting just 2 of 18 from long range on the night, or 11.1%. Barcelona survived committing 24 turnovers thanks to making 8-of-20 (40.0%) from beyond the arc.
Zalgiris will next head on the road as it faces Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on December 11 in Round 13 action. Barcelona will head back home for its next EuroLeague game as it takes on Olympiacos Piraeus on December 8 in a Round 9 makeup game.
Friday, December 4, 2020