Zenit stuns Efes in Istanbul
What a difference a season makes; the team with the worst record in the 2019-20 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season stunned the team with the best mark when Zenit St Petersburg bested Anadolu Efes Istanbul 69-73 on Thursday at Sinan Erdem Dome. Kevin Pangos scored a career-high 23 points – including 4 free throws in the final 23 seconds to seal the win – and dished 7 assists in his Zenit debut to lead the winners. K.C. Rivers added 14 points for Zenit, which trailed by 8 early in the fourth quarter before finishing strong. Vasilije Micic led Efes with 17 points and 9 assists, Krunoslav Simon netted 14 points and Rodrigue Beaubois 12 for the home team, which was missing star guard Shane Larkin due to injury.
Micic had the honor of scoring the season's first basket with a driving layup, but Rivers heated up to give the visitors a 2-7 lead. Micic teamed with Bryant Dunston to help Efes on a run to lead 10-9, but Arturas Gudaitis and Mateusz Ponitka came off the bench for all the points in a 0-6 finish to the quarter to make it 10-15 after 10 minutes. Beaubois took charge with all the points for Efes in the first 5 minutes of the second quarter to even things at 17-17. Zenit's guards seem to always have an answer for Efes and the teams went into the locker rooms for half time tied at 26-26.
Efes came out shooting with back-to-back threes by Simon and Beaubois resulting in a quick Zenit timeout. Simon made his third triple in as many minutes before he assisted Sertac Sanli on a slam for a 40-31 lead. Pangos took charge to rally Zenit within 44-42 before Simon added another shot from downtown. Gudaitis left his mark at both ends of the floor to keep Zenit close, but a jumper by Micic in the closing seconds of the third quarter made it 54-49. Rivers and Pangos fueled the Zenit attack before a monster slam by Alex Poythress tied it at 63-63. A Poythress alley-oop slam gave Zenit a 65-67 edge with 2 and a half minutes remaining. Pangos sank a pair of free throws with 23 seconds remaining to give Zenit a 67-71 lead and, after a jumper by Beaubois, Pangos iced the game with 2 more foul shots with 4.8 seconds on the clock.
It looked like it might be a long night for Kevin Pangos when he came out of the game after 7 minutes with 3 turnovers and 0 points. However, Pangos was simply waiting for the second half to turn it on. He went for 19 points and 4 assists in the final 20 minutes, including 11 fourth-quarter points. He finished with a career-high 23 points, 7 assists and 5 turnovers in posting a game-high performance index rating of 25. What a debut in a Zenit uniform for the former All-EuroLeague guard, who missed all of the 2019-20 EuroLeague season with a foot injury.
The numbers tell the story
Zenit shot more efficiently than Efes from every distance – 59.4% to 54.5% on two-pointers, 30.4% to 25.9% on threes and 87.5% to 75.0% on free throws. The visitors also won the battle of the boards (35 to 31) and delivered 19 assists to Efes's 13.
Zenit will host FC Barcelona on Thursday, October 8, in its home opener. Efes will seek its maiden victory when it hosts crosstown rival Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul the same night.
Thursday, October 1, 2020