After its offense blasted off to start the game, its defense took care of the rest as Zalgiris stayed atop Group A with a 72-63 home win against Strasbourg on Thursday in Kaunas, Lithuania. Zalgiris scored the game's first 14 points as Larry Ayuso hit 4 three-pointers and outscored Strasbourg himself in a 28-13 first quarter. Strasbourg climbed back to within 45-42 right after halftime, but the Zalgiris defense held the visitors under 13 points in each of the firs three quarters to secure the victory. Zalgiris is now 5-1, tied with Tau Ceramica for first place despite missing injured star Tanoka Beard again. Strasbourg dropped to 1-5. Ayuso finished with 22 points and was matched by Darjus Lavrinovic, who also had 3 steals, 4 assists and 3 blocks. Paulius Jankunas added 9 points and 9 rebounds for the winners. Alvin Young led Strasbourg with 13 oints, while Ricardo Greer added 12 and K'Zell Wesson 10.
Ayuso opened the game with triple from the right corner, just the beginning of an offensive show by Zalgiris that continued with Freeman downing a layup and Lavrinovic his own 4 points. Ayuso's second three-pointer meant a 14-0 lead for Zalgiris, whose defense also was on fire. Strasbourg couldn't find a remedy against the Zalgiris zone, but finally got its first 2 points on free throws by Alvin Young. But after Ayuso struck again from the arc, the Zalgiris lead stood at 19-6. Crawford Palmer came on to help Strasbourg from the line, and soon Ricardo Greer added a jumper. But Ayuso not only buried a fourth triple, but was joined from long distance by teammates Vidas Ginevicius and Jonas Maciulis, giving the hosts a commanding 28-13 advantage after 10 minutes.
Ricardo Greer opened the second quarter with a fastbreak layup while Strasbourg's defense concentrated on slowing down the hosts. Paulius Jankunas soon stepped up for Zalgiris with an offensive rebound and difficult layup underneath. Lavrinovic was next, with a block on defense followed by a dunk and a layup on offense. That was wake-up call for Strasbourg and the visitors responded with 6 points by K'zell Wesson, McCord and Ondrej Starosta that cut deficit to 37-21. Young fired from downtown, but worse for Zalgiris was Jankunas and Lavrinovic picking up their third fouls. Aymeric Jeanneau made free throws and Young kept the visitors climbing back with a layup that completed a 4-19 run and pulled Strasbourg within 41-34 at halftime.
Young started second half with a drive and a three-pointer to which Palmer added jumper to get Strasbourg as close as 45-42. When Zalgiris needed to react, Ayuso and Jankunas did just that, combining for 7 points as Zalgiris boosted its lead back up to double digits, 52-42. Ayuso fed Lavrinovic for a three-point play and the center added points from the line on the very next possesion as the hosts kept raising the margin. Ayuso's free throw to end the quarter left Zalgiris in full charge again, 59-44 after 30 minutes.
Both teams exchanged baskets early, but both suffered losses as Young cut an eyebrow in and Janakunas lost a tooth in a collision. Both left the game. Ricardo Greer made a basket in a fastbreak but Zalgiris responded with easy points by Simonas Serapinas. Jankunas spent just a minute on the bench and returned to help defend the fastbreak. Stasbourg tried to rally but cold only get to the line for single free throws by John McCord and Wesson. When Lavrinovic picked up his fifth foul, Wesson made it a three-point play to make it 72-58. Ricardo Greer stepped up with a three-pointer and Stanley Jackson added a jumper from the corner, but it was way too late for a comeback as Zalgiris closed out a 72-63 victory
Thursday, December 8, 2005
Antanas Pakula, Kaunas