Hezonja boosts UNICS past Zalgiris
In a game that was deadlocked through three quarters, UNICS Kazan dominated the fourth to grab its third consecutive win by downing Zalgiris Kaunas 66-53 at home on Friday. UNICS improved to 10-6 in the standings and is 9-2 in the last 11 games. Meanwhile, Zalgiris dropped to 3-13 and lost another chance to record its first road victory. Mario Hezonja led the winners with 20 points. Tonye Jekiri and Isaiah Canaan each added 11 while Lorenzo Brown had a career-high 10 assists for UNICS. Marek Blazevic and Janis Strelnieks led Zalgiris with 9 points apiece. Canaan and Jekiri allowed UNICS to get a 13-12 lead after 10 minutes. Hezonja and Canaan stepped up late in the first half, keeping the hosts ahead, 26-23, at halftime. Hezonja took over after the break to give UNICS a 40-35 margin but Strelnieks helped Zalgiris tie the game, 42-42, at the end of the third quarter. Lorenzo Brown and Jekiri fueled a 10-0 fourth-quarter blast that sealed the outcome, 52-42, as Zalgiris never recovered.
Edgaras Ulanovas got Zalgiris going with a floater that Jarrell Brantley matched with a power layup while Lorenzo Brown scored in penetration for a 4-2 UNICS lead. John Brown capped UNICS's 6-0 run with a turnaround jumper before Mantas Kalnietis stepped up with a driving basket and Tyler Cavanaugh struck from downtown for a 6-7 Zalgiris lead. Ulanovas buried a jump hook that Marco Spissu bettered with a bomb from beyond the arc for a 9-9 tie. Jekiri scored in the low post and Canaan matched Blazevic's jumper with a driving layup, good for a 13-12 UNICS lead after 10 minutes.
Cavanaugh scored down low for the visitors early in the second quarter. Jekiri dunked in response but Blazevic answered him with a layup for a 15-16 Zalgiris edge. O.J. Mayo buried a floater in the lane for UNICS and soon added a three-pointer. Zalgiris tried a smaller lineup with Ulanovas at power forward, but the visitors struggled to score for more than 4 minutes until Strelnieks hit a corner triple. Josh Nebo joined the fun with an alley-oop slam but Hezonja followed a jumper with a layup for a 24-21 UNICS lead. Nebo kept pacing Zalgiris with a put-back dunk that Canaan matched with an inside basket to fix UNICS's halftime edge at 26-23.
Kalnietis nailed a three-pointer soon after the break and Blazevic scored in transition as Zalgiris seized a 26-28 edge. Hezonja answered with a corner triple to which Jekiri added an inside basket as UNICS now flipped the scoreboard, 32-29. Blazevic boosted the guests with a three-point play and Cavanaugh added a three-pointer, but a red-hot Hezonja struck twice from downtown and Canaan added a coast-to-coast layup to keep UNICS ahead, 40-35. After Hezonja finished a reverse layup, Strelnieks struck for Zalgiris with a bomb from beyond the arc and a layup for another tie, 42-42, after 30 minutes.
Lorenzo Brown hit from the arc to open the fourth quarter and Jekiri dunked to put UNICS up 47-42. Lorenzo Brown kept pacing the hosts with a jumper and an assist for Hezonja's next three-pointer, making it a double-digit difference, 52-42, with over 6 minutes left. Niels Giffey tried to reignite Zalgiris with a layup but Jekiri's next one came with a free throw to make it 55-44. Canaan rattled in a three-pointer and added a fastbreak layup off a huge block by Hezonja that sealed the outcome, 60-44. Zalgiris kept trying but UNICS fans were already celebrating another win.
Jekiri stepped up against Zalgiris
He may not be in the spotlight, but Tonye Jekiri has slowly but steadily become one of UNICS Kazan's main pillars, balancing his team at both ends, as he showed during his team's third straight victory, 66-53 over visiting Zalgiris Kaunas, in Round 16. Jekiri scored 11 points on 5-for-7 two-point shooting to go with 9 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block, good for a PIR of 20. In his team's last three victories, he has averaged 7.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and a PIR of 14.0. Jekiri is playing a key role on defense and making very few mistakes on offense, averaging just 1.2 turnovers in almost 24 minutes per night.
Three-pointers gave UNICS its 10th win
In a physical showdown, UNICS Kazan had to fight hard to defeat Zalgiris Kaunas 66-53 in Round 16. UNICS managed to shoot the ball with much higher percentages that allowed it to break the game open in the fourth quarter. UNICS buried 8 of 17 three-point shots (47.1%), limiting Zalgiris to just 6 of 21 shots from the same distance (28.6%). The hosts also shot the ball better than Zalgiris inside the arc; UNICS had a 48.7% two-point shooting percentage, better than its opponent (40.5%).
Zalgiris's Nebo stayed solid
Although Zalgiris Kaunas registered its third consecutive loss, center Josh Nebo kept playing at a very high level against UNICS Kazan in Round 16. Nebo once again posted really solid numbers, finishing the game with 7 points, 7 rebounds, an assist, a steal, 2 blocks and 4 fouls drawn for a PIR of 17. In his team's last three games, Nebo has averaged 10.7 points on 13-for-17 two-point shooting (76.5%), 7.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks for a PIR average of 19.3. He is also drawing more fouls, at 4.0 per game, than in his first 12 games (1.3 on average).
Friday, December 17, 2021