In its last Euroleague home game this season, Zalgiris Kaunas gave its fans a nice present in the form of a 77-66 in Group C victory over Aris TT Bank in Kaunas, Lithuania on Thursday. Zalgiris broke a 10-game losing streak and improved to 2-11 in the Group C standings. Aris, which could have qualified for the Top 16 had it won, instead dropped to 6-7 and into a three-way tie for fourth place in the group standings with Pau-Orthez and Eldo Napoli. Aris, however, will mathematically advance to the Top 16 if it downs Winterthur FC Barcelona at home next week. Jonas Maciulis led the winners with 16 points. Paulius Jankunas posted a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds, Tanoka Beard scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for another double-double while newcomer DeJuan Collins had 11 points for Zalgiris. Mike Wilkinson pumped in 18 points for Aris, while Jeremiah Massey added 17 and Terrel Castle 13. Aris trailed by as many as 22 early in the second half before rallying to within 70-66 before Zalgiris finished the scoring at the foul line.
Zalgiris began the game with new point guard DeJuan Collins in the starting lineup, but it was Marcelinho Machado who hit an off-the-dribble jumper to open the scoring. Aris responded with good ball distribution that turned into 7 quick points shared by Wilkinson, Terrel Castle and Giorgos Sigalas. Zalgiris had Paulius Jankunas to respond with a three-point play. Beard followed him with a layup and free throws that gave Zalgiris a new lead, 9-7. Collins shined then with a nice assist to Jonas Maciulis for a dunk and a driving layup for his first points in a Zalgiris jersey. For Aris, Wilkinson put back a miss, but he was very much alone now in scoring. Meanwhile, Zalgiris rolled ahead by double-digits, 21-11, on another fastbreak layup by Maciulis and a difficult jump-hook by Beard. Wilkinson tried to wake his team up with outside bomb. but Kirk Penney matched it for Zalgiris. Aris still seemed slow and Zalgiris continued to take advantage, especially inside where Hanno Mottolla made a layup-plus-free throw to close a 29-18 first quarter for the hosts.
Aris tried to come back quick as Scales made a free throw and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf drove for a layup early in the second quarter. Zalgiris turned to Maciulis, who again proved the go-to guy, connecting from downtown and feeding Jankunas for an easy basket. Zalgiris didn‘t tried to change what worked well, going inside where Mottola drew fouls and made 3 free throws. Maciulis added a pair himself and a jumper that Jankunas copied. Soon, another basket by Collins gave Zalgiris a 39-26 advantage. Massey broke the spell for Aris with driving layup, however the Zalgiris offense looked solid as ever as Machado nailed a triple from the wing and Maciulis put back his own miss to make it 50-30 after the first half.
A free throw by Maciulis plus baskets by Beard and Jankunas gave Zalgiris the game's biggest lead, 55-33. Savvas Iliadis made a free throw, Wilkinson put back his second and Massey nailed a fadeaway jumper to revive Aris. The guests used an up-tempo and aggressive style to surprise the hosts as Iliadis and Massey shared 3 more free throws. Soon, Aris was pushing the ball inside to Massey for an in-your-face dunk that reduced the gap to 58-43. Halfcourt pressing by Aris forced a turnover by Beard that was followed by a fourth foul on Jankunas. Collins stepped up for his new team with a driving basket-plus-free throw, but Wilkinson felt comfortable inside to challenge Beard, who also had foul trouble, and score 4 consecutive points. Castle made a jumper and Massey continued the Aris comeback with a wild dunk that gave fresh air to the visitors as the third quarter ended 64-53.
Massey opened final quarter with layup that changed the Aris deficit to single digits, 64-55, but Collins picked up his new teammates by hitting a pair of free throws. Mottolla joined his Zalgiris frontcourt pals with his fourth foul. Aris improved on defense and Zalgiris couldn‘t find the way through until Beard scored under the basket. Aris called a timeout and Castle came out after it to bury a three-pointer that reduced the edge to 68-62. Collins answered with a basket to beat the shot-clock but Aris kept coming with a dunk by Massey and a coast-to-coast layup by Castle that trimmed the difference to 70-66. After a timeout, Zalgiris saw Jankunas launch an airball and Maciulis commit a turnover. Wilkinson fouled out for Aris, however, and Zalgiris got a mid-range jumper from Maciulis to steady itself. Now, fouls by Dimitrios Tsaldaris and Simonas Serapinas sent Machado to the line and he made all 4 free throws while Jankunas added another to preserve a 77-66 score and gave Zalgiris a long-awaited victory in the front of its fans.
Thursday, January 25, 2007