Steals, turnovers tell the story (2)
Clichés could be used to sum up the final minutes of the game. It was like a game of cat and mouse. Fenerbahce controlled the action, letting Zalgiris get close, but responding when it was too close. Fenerbahce would bend, but not break. Zalgiris battled on to give itself a chance. Missed free throws at both ends hurt both sides and Zalgiris started to run out of time. With every possession more important than the previous, three consecutive turnovers spelled Zalgiris doom. Even in losing, Zalgiris outrebounded Fenerbahce, but poor three-point shooting by the league-leader in that category, 7 missed free throws and 20 turnovers were too much to overcome against the champs. For Fenerbahce, exemplary play from the bench (Muhammed 19, Datome 16, Sloukas 14), which outscored the Zalgiris reserves 53-22 and aggressive defense, which led to a season-high 13 steals, sends the champs to defend their title in the championship game.
Belgrade - Friday, May 18, 19:59
Muhammed doesn’t feel the pressure
Remember when Saras said in yesterday's press conference that he just wanted to stay around long enough to have a chance at the end? This must have been what he was talking about. But Fenerbahce did not seem to feel the pressure. Or at least Ali Muhammed didn’t. The veteran guard nailed a pair of triples and the lead ballooned to 62-52 with 7:46 to play. How will Zalgiris respond now?
Belgrade - Friday, May 18, 19:38
After Zalgiris run, it's #GameOn
Just when it was looking bleak for Zalgiris – Fenerbahce was up to a season-high 12 steals, which led to a Kalinic layup (his first points) and the lead reached a new high at 50-37. Then Ulanovas struck with Zalgiris's first triple of the night. Toupane buried a long jumper and Kavaliauskas scored 3 points over two possessions. Suddenly, the lead was just 5. Then, with the crowd chanting for Zalgiris and the 24-second clock winding down, Pangos fired in a deep three to cap a 0-11 charge and make it 50-48. #GameOn
Belgrade - Friday, May 18, 19:34
Steals, turnovers tell the story
The story of the first half can be summed up by looking at the steals and turnovers charts. Fenerbahce has collected 10 steals and committed just 5 turnovers. Its season high for steals is 11! Zalgiris has taken only 2 steals, while turning the ball over 12 times. Nine times this season Zalgiris made fewer than 12 turnovers in a single game. It will need to take better care of the ball in the second half to beat Fenerbahce.
Belgrade - Friday, May 18, 19:00
Kalinic, Melli lead defensive clinic, but Davies responds
The Fenerbahce frontline is the difference in the game thus far. In addition to the fact that Vesely and Duverioglu (12 points) are getting the job done on offense, Kalinic and Nicolo Melli are providing tough defense that is getting in the Zalgiris players’ heads. Their versatility allows Fener to switch on any pick-and-roll without giving away an advantage and their aggressiveness has them getting into the passing lanes to disrupt the Zalgiris plays. Kalinic’s diving save of a ball had the feel of a game-breaking play…and then came Davies. A three-point play and a tip-in helped erase most of an 11-point deficit and Aaron White’s slam to beat the halftime buzzer had Zalgiris within 39-33.
Belgrade - Friday, May 18, 18:55
Fenerbahce surges ahead
So much has been written and said about Zalgiris’s mental and physical toughness and it is all on display early in the second quarter. After a tough start and then falling behind by 6 on the last basket of the first quarter, some teams might flounder. Not Zalgiris. Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius's men are not only showing that they can go toe to toe with the champs, but playing every possession without any regard for the scoreboard. That said, the battle on the scoreboard is clearly in Fenerbahce's favor. Vesely dunked twice – the first an alley-oop and the second over Davies – for a 32-20 lead midway through the second quarter.
Belgrade - Friday, May 18, 18:45
Shifting momentum builds greater drama
Zalgiris went to its bench first with Antanas Kavaliauskas coming in for Jankunas. Zalgiris settled down and kept Fenerbahce scoreless for several minutes, but could not get anything going on the offensive end. When the game was stopped for the television timeout at 4:51 of the first quarter, Zalgiris was 0 for 7 from the floor. Pangos put an end to that with a jumper after which both teams made several lineup moves. The players always say that in games of this magnitude, every possession matters. Tonight it feels like the momentum could shift with every basket made and every defensive stand. With Zalgiris within 3, Datome game up with a great defensive play to block Kavaliauskas at one end and then drained a three from the corner at the other. Jankunas free throws helped cut into the deficit, but Wanamaker’s third score of the game in the dying seconds of the first quarter boosted the Fenerbahce lead to 19-13.
Belgrade - Friday, May 18, 18:27
Zalgiris digs itself early hole
Reminiscent of a play that set the tone for Fenerbahce's championship game romp last season, the team looked to Jan Vesely for an early alley-oop slam. Instead, Paulius Jankunas fouled him and Vesely missed the first free throw. Axel Toupane split free throws at the other end to get Zalgiris on the scoreboard. Despite surviving that sequence, missed opportunities with when Jankunas missed twice inside and Brad Wanamaker and Ahmet Duverioglu did not. Zalgiris fund itself in an early 7-1 hole and the Fenerbahce fans' chants only put more pressure on the Lithuanian champs.
Belgrade - Friday, May 18, 18:20
Here are your starting lineups
The starting five for Fenerbahce features Brad Wanamaker, Marko Guduric, Nikola Kalinic, Jan Vesely and Ahmet Duverioglu. Zalgiris will go with Kevin Pangos, Axel Toupane, Edgaras Ulanovas, Paulius Jankunas and Brandon Davies. While there are no major surprises – all 10 players started at least one playoff game, it is noteworthy that regular starters Jason Thompson, Luigi Datome and James Nunnally will all come off the bench for Fenerbahce and Vasilije Micic will do the same for Zalgiris.
Belgrade - Friday, May 18, 18:00
Hot in Belgrade
You can feel the heat of the Final Four here at my seat in the press box! This year the EuroLeague has taken the pre-game introductions to a new level with drummers, laser light and balls of fire creating an atmosphere truly worthy of the big event. This is awe-inspiring stuff and should have all 24 players pumped up for what promises to be an awesome semifinal. Here we go!
Belgrade - Friday, May 18, 17:55
Welcome to the Game Blog!
Welcome to the 2018 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Game Blog! Here we will give you an experts' angle on the games as it happens, reviewing what has transpired and trying to figure out what might happen next. Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul was the first team onto the floor for warmups some 30 minutes before tipoff and Zalgiris Kaunas followed shortly thereafter. Both teams are known to have brought large, loud and passionate fan bases to Belgrade, but the Fenerbahce fans – perhaps thanks to their big game experience, this being the club's fourth consecutive Final Four – are here early and cheering already.
Belgrade - Friday, May 18, 17:50