Zalgiris comes back to win defensive battle at Olympiacos
Zalgiris Kaunas fought back from a double-digit second-half deficit to secure a 67-68 victory in a defensive battle at Olympiacos Piraeus in its 2020-21 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season opener. Zalgiris was down 11 points late in the third quarter, but won thanks to Rokas Jokubaitis's free throws with 3.5 seconds left. The 19-year-old scored a career-high 12 points, while Marius Grigonis paced Zalgiris with 15 points and Joffrey Lauvergne had 13 points. Martin Hassan tallied 12 points as Olympiacos's only scorer in double figures with Kostas Sloukas posting 6 points and 7 assists in his first game back with the Reds.
Lauvergne opened the scoring with the first basket of the season for Zalgiris before Aaron Harrison's layup got Olympiacos on the scoreboard. Harrison followed with back-to-back corner three-pointers and Livio Jean-Charles made it 10-3. The hosts went cold while Jokubaitis tallied 7 points in a 2-15 run over nearly 5 minutes for a 12-18 lead. Vassilis Spanoulis and Sloukas both knocked down three-pointers, but Olympiacos trailed 18-23 after 10 minutes. Martin came off the Olympiacos bench for two baskets early in the second quarter and two scores from Georgios Printezis knotted the game at 29-29. After Thomas Walkup drained a three-pointer for Zalgiris, Martin added 4 more points to push Olympiacos ahead 37-34, which was the score at the break.
Shaquielle McKissic's layup opened the second half for a 5-point lead before Lauvergne stepped up with an and-one to knot the game at 41-41. Zalgiris's offense went ice-cold and Olympiacos got hot from the outside with three-pointers from Sloukas and Sasha Vezenkov. The latter added a three-point play to finish an 11-0 run for a 52-41 advantage. Lukas Lekavicius finally snapped the drought, but Spanoulis added another three-pointer and the advantage was 58-47 after 30 minutes. Zalgiris had the better start to the fourth quarter with Arturas Milaknis draining a triple to close the gap to 58-52. Zalgiris was working hard defensively, holding Olympiacos to just one basket in the first 5 minutes of the frame and a Grigonis three-pointer trimmed the deficit to 62-57 - and an Olympiacos timeout. Lauvergne added 3 more points and the visitors trailed by just 2 when Octavius Ellis's dunk to make it 64-60. Jokubaitis came up with a big and-one to pull within 1 point, but was answered by a Spanoulis three-point play. Thomas Walkup answered with a three-pointer and Zalgiris trailed 67-66 with 92 seconds left. After Olympiacos was unable to score, Jokubaitis calmly knocked down 2 free throws with 3.5 seconds left to give Zalgiris the lead - and eventually the win when Sloukas could not get a final shot off.
Zalgiris's comeback victory sealed a successful debut as head coach Martin Schiller was patrolling the EuroLeague sidelines for the first time after replacing Saras Jasikevicius in the off-season.
Another Zalgiris win over Olympiacos
Despite the loss, Olympiacos still leads the EuroLeague series with Zalgiris since 2000 with a 13-12 record, though the Lithuanian champion has now won nine of the last 11 games, including four times in Greece.
Zalgiris shot 53.9% from two-point range while Olympiacos hit 48.6% on two-point shots. Zalgiris also grabbed 11 offensive rebounds to 9 for Olympiacos.
Olympiacos will head out on the road for the next game, but will stay in Greece for the battle against rival Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Friday, October 9. On the same day, Zalgiris will play its second of three road games to start the season at Khimki Moscow Region.
Thursday, October 1, 2020