Zalgiris suffocates Greens to end losing streak
Zalgiris Kaunas snapped a six-game losing streak by holding off Panathinaikos OPA Athens 69-81 at OAKA on Friday night. The visitors, who hadn't seen a victory since October 29, took an early 8-17 lead behind triples by Marius Grigonis and Nigel Hayes and never trailed for the rest of the game. Even when the hosts managed to tie it 50-50, Zalgiris launched a 2-17 run bridging the last two quarters to put the game on ice and improved its record to 6-7. Marius Grigonis paced the winners with 24 points, making 6 of 8 three-pointers. He was followed by Nigel Hayes with 14 points and Rokas Jokubaitis with 10, all of his in the last quarter. Panathinaikos, who dropped to 4-8, had Nemanja Nedovic as its best scorer with 12 points. Georgios Papagiannis posted a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds, while Shelvin Mack and Ioannis Papapetrou contributed 10 apiece for the losing side.
Joffrey Lauvergne got Zalgiris going with 6 points in a 4-8 opening run. Grigonis joined later to connect twice from downtown twice. Hayes added another long ball to raise the difference to 10-17 after 6 minutes. Konstantinos Mitoglou came to the rescue after a Panathinaikos timeout, but a three-pointer by Lukas Lekavicius, a layup by Grigonis and a buzzer-beating tip-in by Paulius Jankunas set a double-digit lead for the visitors, 12-24, after one quarter. Mack and Mitoglou reanimated the hosts early in the second, but timely triples from Thomas Walkup and Hayes aborted the rally and made it 18-30. Despite offensive rebounds providing the hosts with several extra possessions, Zalgiris retained a comfortable 31-43 advantage behind Grigonis's terrific scoring contribution from the perimeter. A pair of free throws by Papapetrou allowed Panathinaikos to reach halftime still breathing, 33-43. Back-to-back triples by Aaron White and Nedovic sparked a 8-0 Panathinaikos right after the break, prompting a Zalgiris timeout. The visitors remained scoreless for almost 4 minutes, but Panathinaikos was unable to cap the comeback, as Grigonis connected from downtown to end the drought and keep his team ahead 41-46. Mack would soon force a 50-50 tie, but Zalgiris didn't panic. Arturas Milaknis showed up with a well-timed bomb, Jankunas provided a tip-in and Augustine Rubit emerged inside to restore a 10-point gap, 50-60, entering the last quarter. Jokubaitis took over and made it even worse for the hosts with a corner three and a jumper to build a 52-67 Zalgiris lead with 7 minutes remaining. Howard Sant-Roos and Nedovic provided much-needed triples for Panathinaikos and Papagiannis dunked to keep Zalgiris in sight, but Jokubaitis calmed his team by scoring at 63-72. The hosts went to Papagiannis to close within 67-72, but that was the extent of their rally as Hayes made a three-point play, Grigonis drilled from deep and Rubit down free throws for what would be the definitive double-digit edge that sent the victory back to Kaunas.
One half for each
Zalgiris' top scorer Marius Grigonis was unstoppable in the first half, providing Zalgiris with 18 points on 4-for-5 three-point shooting. He could not contribute the same way after the break, but he was perfectly replaced by Rokas Jokubaitis, who took over with a 10-point final quarter that prevented Panathinaikos from getting too close.
Even though struggling from long distance all game long, a three-pointer by Selvin Mack allowed PAO tie the game 50-50 late in the third quarter. Far from getting panicked, Zalgiris reacted in style and responded with a 0-10 run in the last 3 minutes to enter the last period with full trust.
Did you know?
Until Friday, Zalgiris Kaunas had a 1-13 record against Panathinaikos on the road. Zalgiris's previous only win in Athens came on October 26, 2018, when it clinched an 83-87 overtime victory behind 18 points from Brandon Davies.
Jankunas breaks record
More than 17 years after he debuted for his hometown team, Zalgiris Kaunas forward Paulius Jankunas has now appeared in more Turkish Airlines EuroLeague games than any player in history. Jankunas played his 354th game to surpass Felipe Reyes of Real Madrid, with whom he was tied, after the latter did not play in his team's home win against Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday.
Both Panathinaikos OPAP Athens and Zalgiris Kaunas will play at home in Round 14 next week. The Greeks will face Real Madrid on Tuesday, December 15, while Zalgiris Kaunas will take on TD Systems Baskonia at the Zalgirio Arena the same day.
Friday, December 11, 2020