Last-second Walkup wins a thriller for Zalgiris
Zalgiris Kaunas edged out Olympiacos Piraeus in an 81-79 thriller on Friday night as Thomas Walkup scored with 1 second remaining to cap a 9-0 run in the last two minutes. The first half was fast moving as both offenses found their rhythm, and Zalgiris led 45-44 at half-time. The home side threatened to pull clear in the third quarter but Olympiacos kept battling, and a flurry of three-pointers gave the visitors control late on. It was 72-79 with two minutes remaining but Olympiacos couldn’t score again and Zalgiris produced a series of big plays, culminating in Walkup’s steal and score. Joffrey Lauvergne led the winning side with 21 points and 7 rebounds, while Arturas Milaknis scored 11 and Augustine Rubit added 10. Olympiacos was paced by 16 points apiece for veterans Kostas Sloukas and Georgios Printezis, and Sasha Vezenkov added 11 points in defeat. The victory keeps Zalgiris in the playoffs places with a 12-9 record, just ahead of Olympiacos (11-10).
Milaknis opened the scoring from close-range before Sloukas and Marius Grigonis added triples and Lauvergne hit a mid-range jumper for a 7-3 edge. Walkup and Paulius Jankunas stretched the lead with triples, but Aaron Harrison’s three-point play and another Sloukas deep strike kept Olympiacos close, 13-9. Harrison was also on target from deep, before Lauvergne and Hassan Martin struck inside blows. A triple from Charles Jenkins was answered by a threeball and driving layup from Rokas Jokubaitis, and a buzzer-beater in transition by Lukas Lekavicius gave Zalgiris a 26-20 lead after ten minutes. Jokubaitis and Sloukas added further triples early in the second, and Rubit scored twice inside for a 33-25 lead. Nigel Hayes kept the three-point party rolling but two baskets for Vezenkov got Olympiacos closer, and Livio Jean-Charles scored at the basket to make it 36-33. Vezenkov and Jean-Charles capped a 0-9 run to give the Reds their first lead. Vassilis Spanoulis and Printezis got on the scoreboard, but Milaknis hit a triple and Martynas Geben added a putback to send Zalgiris in front, 45-44 at the break.
Printezis scored twice early in the third, either side of a three-point play by Lauvergne. Inside strikes from Octavius Ellis and Hayes kept it tied, 50-50, before Lauvergne struck again with a tip-in and Printezis stayed hot with a trademark floater. The scoring finally slowed before Lauvergne’s hook shot and Milaknis’s triple made it 57-52 midway through the third. The red-hot Lauvergne battled for two more scores to stretch the lead, 61-54, but a four-point play by Sloukas reignited Olympiacos. Printezis netted again and it was 63-60 at the end of the third. Rubit and Martin were on target early in the fourth, before Printezis struck from deep and Shaq McKissic drove to the basket to tie it, 67-67. Grigonis and Vezenkov made three-pointers to preserve parity with five minutes left. Spanoulis and Printezis both hit triples to put Olympiacos ahead, and Spanoulis added another to make it 72-79 with three minutes on the clock. An alley-oop from Lauvergne gave the home team hope, and a Milaknis three-pointer made it 77-79 with a minute left. Lauvergne tied it up with a fastbreak dunk, and Walkup stole the ball away from Sloukas for the winning score. Olympiacos had 0.8 seconds to force overtime, but Grigonis leapt to disrupt the attempted alley-oop and the win stayed in Kaunas.
Zalgiris maintains dominance over Reds
The victory prolonged a hot streak for Zalgiris against Olympiacos. The Lithuanian team has now won seven of its last eight meetings with the Reds, including a 67-68 victory in Piraeus in Round 1, and six in a row at home.
Superb Lauvergne dodges foul worries
Zalgiris appeared to have run into foul trouble before half-time as big men Augustine Rubit and Joffrey Lauvergne both moved to 3 fouls. But Lauvergne was able to play the rest of the game without conceding any more fouls and took a leading role in the victory, scoring 4 of his team’s 9 points in the last two minutes.
Olympiacos O goes cold
Olympiacos scored three consecutive three-pointers in the space of 80 seconds – two from Vassilis Spanoulis and one from Georgios Printezis – to establish a 7-point lead with three minutes left. But the Reds didn’t score again, missing its last five shots and committing three turnovers.
Sharpshooting from Zalgiris
Zalgiris had excellent shooting percentages, converting 21-of-33 two-pointers (63.6%), 10-of-24 triples (41.7%) and all 9 trips to the foul line.
Both teams are on the road at the start of the double round week, with Olympiacos visiting AX Armani Exchange Milan on Tuesday, while Zalgiris travels to Valencia Basket on Wednesday.
Friday, January 22, 2021