Zalgiris celebrates seventh straight Lithuanian crown
Zalgiris Kaunas claimed its seventh consecutive Lithuanian League championship after holding off Lietkabelis Panevezys 73-68 on Friday in Game 5 at Zalgirio Arena to win their best-of-seven series 4-1. Lukas Lekavicius led the way with 23 points and Paulius Jankunas posted 16 points and 9 rebounds, including the key basket with 11 seconds remaining. Edgaras Ulanovas added 12 points and 7 boards and Leo Westermann had 8 points and 8 assists. Zalgiris outrebounded Lietkabelis 37-28 and scored 14 second-chance points in one of the keys to victory. Ksistof Lavrinovic and Zygimantas Skucas paced Lietkabelis with 12 points apiece and Zygimantas Janavicius and Gintaras Leonavicius had 11 each.
The teams traded blows throughout the first quarter, which ended with the score knotted 15-15. Ksistof Lavrinovic and Janavicius pushed the visitors to a 5-point advantage early in the second quarter, but Lekavicius scored 8 points in a 13-2 tear that saw Zalgiris soar to a 40-29 advantage. Darjus Lavrinovic closed the gap to 42-33 at the break. The hosts padded the lead, which reached 57-43 on Brock Motum's put-back slam. The visitors scored the final 7 points of the third quarter, last 3 of which came from a shot from downtown by Leonavicius, to make it 58-52. Janavicius made free throws to make it a 4-point game at the start of the fourth quarter. Lekavicius drained a triple to give the hosts a 70-63 cushion with three minutes remaining. Lietkabelis came back and got within 3 on Ksistof Lavrinovic free throws with 95 seconds remaining. However Jankunas beat the shot clock with 11 seconds left to make it a two-possession game and all but seal the victory and championship.
Fenerbahce tops Besiktas in Turkish finals opener
Fenerbahce Istanbul held off Besiktas Sompo Japan Istanbul 75-69 in the opening game of their best-of-seven Turkish League finals on Friday. Besiktas came back from a double-digit deficit to tie the score twice in the fourth quarter, but Fenerbahce finished strong to win the game. Bobby Dixon paced the winners with 16 points, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Ekpe Udoh netted 13 points apiece, Kostas Sloukas added 11 and Jan Vesely posted 10 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Vladimir Stimac led Besiktas with 20 points and 11 rebounds, Earl Clark added 17 points and 8 rebounds and Kenan Sipahi scored 11.
Stimac dominated early with 8 points as Besiktas jumped out to an 8-19 lead. Udoh and Vesely helped Fenerbahce close to within 18-22 after 10 minutes. The lead grew to 8 early in the second quarter, but Dixon and Bogdanovic hit threes in an 11-0 Fenerbahce run that saw the hosts take a 31-28 edge. Fenerbahce continued its charge and Sloukas made it 42-33 at the break. Another Bogdanovic three gave Fenerbahce its first double-digit lead, however Clark scored 6 points in a 0-8 Besiktas charge to bring the visitors back. Stimac tied it from the line, but Bogdanovic's third triple left Fenerbahce up 52-49 after three quarter. Besiktas tied the score twice more in the first two minutes of the fourth only to see the hosts respond. In the closing minutes, Stimac gave Besiktas a shot, but a three by Dixon and free throws by Bogdanovic helped Fenerbahce wrap up the win.
Madrid strikes first in Spanish finals
Real Madrid captured the opener in the Spanish League finals by defeating Valencia Basket 87-81. Sergio Llull starred with 20 points, 4 assists and 4 steals and had a hand in all of Madrid’s final 7 points. Rudy Fernandez added 19 points, Jeffrey Taylor scored 12 and Felipe Reyes 11 for the winners. Bojan Dubljevic paced Valencia with 19 points, Fernando San Emeterio had 14, Luke Sikma 13 and Will Thomas 12. The best-of-five series resumes with Game 2 in Madrid on Sunday.
Neither team led by more than 3 points in the first six minutes, but a three by Sikma and a jumper by
Oriola gave Valencia a 12-18 edge. Madrid scored the final 6 points of the first quarter to even the score at 21-21. Reyes’s basket-plus-foul highlighted a 7-0 Madrid run that gave the hosts a 30-25 edge. A three by Taylor saw the margin reach 43-35, but back-to-back threes by Rafa Martinez and Dubljevic knotted the sides at 43-43 at the break. A pair of threes by Llull had Madrid back in control at 52-45 only to see San Emeterio scored twice as Valencia tied it again. A triple by Rudy and three-point play by Llull made it 65-59 through three quarters. Back-to-back threes by San Emeterio and Thomas tied the game again at 67-67. And a three by Dubljevic pushed Valencia ahead. The game was tied at 78-78 with less than four minutes to go when Jaycee Carroll netted free throws, Llull came up with a steal that Rudy turned into an acrobatic three-point play and Gustavo Ayon grabbed an offensive rebound that led to Llull’s layup and a 7-point lead, from which Valencia never fully recovered.