Zalgiris sharpshooters dominate Baskonia, 92-73
Zalgiris Kaunas snapped another losing streak as it outlasted dominated TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz with a 92-73 victory on Tuesday. Zalgiris lifted its record to 7-7, ending its five-game home losing streak less than a week after ending an overall six-game skid. Baskonia fell to 6-7 with its second loss in succession. Arturas Milaknis made 5 of Zalgiris's 18 three-point shots to lead all scorers with 15 points. Lukas Lekavicius added 13, Joffrey Lauvergne 12, Nigel Hayes and Marius Grigonis 11 each. Baskonia got 14 points from Youssoupha Fall, 12 from Alec Peters and 10 each from Luca Vildoza and Zoran Dragic.
Fall and Lauvergne traded short baskets before Achille Polonara and Hayes did the same from deep for a 5-5 tie. Fall kept scoring but 8 points from Grigonis put Zalgiris up 13-10. Lauvergne and Peters split 9 points before Milaknis struck from deep at 20-15. Tonye Jekiri and Rokas Giedraitis shot Baskonia closer, but after Jankunas and Dragic traded triples, Lekavicius hit a floater as Zalgiris led 25-22 after 10 minutes. Giedraitis tied it on the second quarter's first shot, but Hayes and Lekavicius, from deep, established a 33-27 lead for the hosts. Triples by Thomas Walkup and Milaknis would stretch the difference to double digits before Vildoza copied them to trim the difference to 44-36 at the half. Polonara and Pierria Henry got Baskonia within 47-40 after the break, but Milaknis was ready with his fourth and fifth triples to make it 55-40. Grigonis hit Zalgiris's again from long range and Lekavicius downed 3 free throws to make it 61-44. Peters and Rokas Jokubaitis exchanged threes and Lauvergne dropped a hook for a game-high lead, until then, of 68-47 after three quarters. Lauvergne, Augustine Rubit and Jokubaitis upped the difference to 74-47 before Arturs Kurucs downed a triple and Henry dunked off a steal for the visitors. Hayes returned with a triple before Fall finished twice in close for 5 points at 79-57 with 5 minutes left. When Lekavicius finished a broken play with Zalgiris's 16th three-pointer the lead was back to 82-59 and there was not enough time for Baskonia to mount a comeback.
Home woes cured
After five consecutive home losses, Zalgiris found the solution with defense and rebounding. Zalgiris had been giving up 83.8 points at home, second-worst in the league, before holding Baskonia to 73, with 17 of those coming in the final 5 minutes, with the game out of reach. The hosts also outrebounded the visitors 37-23 despite coming into the game averaging 5.4 per game fewer than Baskonia, which was outrebounding its opponents by 5.6 on average.
In its 429th EuroLeague game this century, Zalgiris established its second-best three-point shooting performance by making an amazing 18 of 26 three-pointers. The club record is 19 recorded in a 96-91 loss at Anadolu Efes Istanbul back in February of this year, but before that Zalgiris had never hit more than 14. Milaknis made 5 of 7 to lead eight different Zalgiris players who scored from deep, including forward Karolis Lukosiunas, whose 2 late triples were his first points of the season. Every Zalgiris player who attempted a three-pointer made at least one. Zalgiris's 69.3% accuracy from downtown was the second-best in the EuroLeague season, trailing only LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne's 70.8% against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on December 1.
Jankunas moves up
Paulius Jankunas of Zalgiris moved into third place all-time in career performance index rating. Jankunas needed a PIR of just 7 to move ahead of the great Dimitris Diamantidis (3,806), and already had 10 at halftime. He finished with a 15 PIR, his best in almost two years, based on 7 points and 6 rebounds, for a career total of 2,815. Next in Jankunas's sights is second-ranked Juan Carlos Navarro, with 3,890.
In the second half of this double-round week, Zalgiris stays home for a visit from Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul on Thursday that will feature the return of a long-time former wearer of Kaunas green, Edgaras Ulanovas. Baskonia stays on the road to match wits with FC Bayern Munich on Friday.
Tuesday, December 15, 2020