Zalgiris fights off Valencia's rally for home win
Zalgiris Kaunas held off a comeback attempt from visiting Valencia Basket to hang onto a valuable 86-82 win on Thursday. Zalgiris improved to 12-7 on the season, while Valencia dropped to 6-13. Zalgiris had a dream opening to the game with Kevin Pangos running the show, and led by 16 at halftime, but Erick Green and Tibor Pleiss rallied Valencia. The visitors took their first lead with 5 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but Zalgiris made more plays as the game went down to the wire and pulled out another win. Pangos dished 10 assists in the first 16 minutes, and finished with 15 total – the most in the EuroLeague this season – to go with 11 points. Axel Toupane paced the hosts with 18 points, while Arturas Milaknis netted 12 on 4-for-6 shooting from long range. Aaron White was clutch down the stretch and collected 11 points plus 8 rebounds. Paulius Jankunas also had 11 and Edgaras Ulanovas 10 points in victory. Pleiss scored 20 points and Green 17 for the visitors. Will Thomas finished with 19, including back-to-back three-pointers that got Valencia close in the final minute, while Sam Van Rossom dished 10 assists in defeat.
Zalgiris stormed out of the gate. With Pangos running the show, Jankunas hit a three-pointer on the opening possession and Toupane took it twice to the rim as Zalgiris opened the game with a 13-0 run. Valencia did not score on its first eight possessions, before Thomas got the visitors going with 4 minutes gone. Thomas scored twice, while Bojan Dubljevic and Van Rossom added a triple apiece. When Pleiss and Green joined in, the latter with a three-pointer as soon as he came off the bench, Valencia was already within 5 points, 24-19. White ended the first quarter with a fastbreak layup before Pangos fed Milaknis for a pair of wide-open triples early in the second quarter, making it 32-21. Pleiss had a three-point play for Valencia, but Pangos fed Jankunas twice and Milaknis for his third three as Zalgiris opened 41-24 lead. Valencia got a spark from Rafa Martinez and Fernando San Emeterio, but Zalgiris kept its lead safe and went into halftime up 47-31.
Thomas had a pair of close range baskets for Valencia that helped the visitors get into a rhythm and cut the difference to 51-38. Toupane remained hot on the other end, hitting a long jumper to extend the margin to 56-40 midway through the third quarter. However, Toupane committed his fourth foul and Brandon Davies already fouled out, so Valencia was not giving up. Green got hot and knocked down 3 three-pointers near the end of the third quarter, making it 63-57 after 30 minutes. Green's second-chance triple opened the fourth quarter before a runner by Pangos snapped a 0-11 Valencia run. White had a dunk-plus-free throw, but San Emeterio scored 5 points before Pleiss strung together 6 of his own from close range and put Valencia in front 70-71 with 5 minutes to go. Valencia got Zalgiris off its rhythm with zone defense, but Zalgiris solved it with a jumper from Jankunas and a second-chance triple from Milaknis that made it 79-73. Pleiss answered with a three of his own, but Ulanovas and Antanas Kavaliauskas opened a 83-76 margin. After a timeout with 78 seconds to go, Thomas knocked down a pair of triples to make it 83-82. Valencia made one more defensive stand, and Thomas got another look from long range, but missed. There were still 8 seconds to go and Pangos only split his free throws, but White pulled down an offensive board and Ulanovas sealed the deal with 2 free throws that fell 2.9 seconds before the final buzzer.
Thursday, January 18, 2018