Lekavicius lifts Zalgiris in France
In a battle that went down to the wire, Zalgiris Kaunas grabbed its second consecutive win in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season by edging LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne 74-79 at the Astroballe on Thursday. Both teams now have 8-14 records in the standings. Lukas Lekavicius led the winners with 21 points off the bench. Arturas Milaknis and Jock Landale each added 12 and Thomas Walkup had 11 for Zalgiris. Jordan Taylor paced ASVEL with 15 points, David Lighty added 14, Theo Maledon 13, Livio Jean-Charles 12 and Tonye Jekiri had 11 for the hosts. The hosts rallied late and Taylor gave ASVEL the lead, 74-73, in the final minute, but Lekavicius hit a go-ahead triple and Walkup sealed the outcome from the foul line.
Jekiri hit a turnaround shot and fed Maledon for a jumper to give ASVEL an early 4-0 lead. Milaknis followed a floater with a triple, igniting a 0-7 Zalgiris run that Paulius Jankunas capped with a jump hook. Jekiri and Livio Jean-Charles rescued ASVEL, but Zalgiris kept feeding its big men, as Jankunas and Jock Landale each scored in the paint. Walkup capped a 0-7 run with a triple, but Jekiri kept pushing ASVEL with a put-back basket. Ismael Bako ignited the crowd with a dunk and Lighty allowed ASVEL to tie the game, 16-16, after 10 minutes.
Lekavicius took over with back-to-back driving layups early in the second quarter. Lighty sank a close jumper and added a three-point play, but Zalgiris kept finding answers on offense. Zach LeDay stepped up with a layup-plus-foul, Walkup downed a couple of floaters and a red-hot Lekavicius scored in penetration, causing the hosts to call timeout at 21-29. Jean-Charles tried to change things with a power layup and got help from Maledon and Adreian Payne to give ASVEL hope, 27-30, at halftime.
Landale dunked soon after the break and Nigel Hayes struck from beyond the arc for a 27-35 Zalgiris lead. Jekiri stepped up with a layup and Jean-Charles dunked, but Landale and Milaknis kept Zalgiris in control, 31-39. Maledon sank a triple and Jekiri added a big three-point play, but Zalgiris kept running its offense through Lekavicius, who boosted the visitors' lead to double digits, 37-48. Jean-Charles and Maledon tried to ignite ASVEL's comeback with consecutive three-point plays. Bako added a tip-in to bring the hosts within 46-51. Lekavicius hit a floater and Landale dunked again, but Maledon and Taylor kept ASVEL as close at 50-55 after 30 minutes. Taylor buried a three-pointer early in the fourth quarter. Milaknis answered with a baseline floater and Lekavicius scored again to give Zalgiris fresh air at 53-59. Landale took over with a backdoor slam, but Bako and especially Taylor allowed ASVEL to tie the game, 61-61, with less than 6 minutes left. Lighty scored around the basket to complete the hosts' comeback, 63-61, after an 8-0 run. Walkup and LeDay combined for 5 unanswered points, but Lighty struck from downtown to tie the game, 66-66. LeDay kept pacing the visitors with a tip-in and Edgaras Ulanovas scored in the low post for a 68-70 score with 2 minutes left. Lekavicius hit a free throw and Ulanovas added a layup for a 70-73 Zalgiris lead with 1:02 left. Jekiri split free throws, but Lighty grabbed the offensive rebound and found Taylor for a triple and a 74-73 ASVEL edge with 43.9 seconds to go. Lekavicius answered from downtown, Maledon missed an off-balance shot and Walkup sealed the outcome from the foul line.
Lukas Lekavicius came off the bench and managed to keep scoring until the final buzzer, hitting the go-ahead triple down the stretch. He finished the game with 21 points on 7-of-11 two-point shooting, 2-of-3 three-pointers and 1-of-2 free throws. He added 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 foul drawn for a PIR of 15.
Jordan Taylor had all of his 15 points in the final 11 minutes and his final basket was a three-point shot that gave ASVEL a 74-73 lead with 43.9 seconds left. Zalgiris called timeout and Lekavicius buried a high-pressure triple. Zalgiris got a defensive stop, then Zach LeDay drew an unsportsmanlike foul which allowed him and Thomas Walkup to seal the outcome from the foul line. After a big comeback, ASVEL was scoreless when it mattered most.
In a game that came down to small details and in which a three-point shot made the difference, two-point shooting allowed Zalgiris to get that opportunity to win. Zalgiris made 24 of 40 two-point shots (60%) and limited ASVEL to just 17 of 36 (47.2%). ASVEL had a higher team PIR, 79-77, but Zalgiris won the game.
Did you notice?
A moment of silence took place to honor Robert Archibald and Kobe Bryant, who passed away this weekend. Additionally, ASVEL and Zalgiris honored Bryant at the start of the game. ASVEL committed a 24-second violation to start the game and Zalgiris followed that with an 8-second backcourt violation, all in front of a standing ovation, including players and coaches from both teams. The late Bryant wore both numbers, 8 and 24, during his NBA career.
Both teams return to EuroLeague action early next week - on Tuesday, February 4. ASVEL hosts FC Bayern Munich. Zalgiris welcomes Olympiacos Piraeus the same evening.
Thursday, January 30, 2020