Muhammed inspires Fenerbahce to the Final Four
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul became the second team to advance into the Final Four with a record-breaking 82-99 road victory at Zalgiris Kaunas, clinching the series 3-1. Fenerbahce made a sensational start to lead 10-27 in the first quarter, before Zalgiris fought back and narrowed the gap to just 4 points, 48-52, early in the second half. But an inspired Ali Muhammed kept the visiting team in front, and the lead was in double digits nearly all the rest of the way. Muhammed shone with 25 points on 9-of-10 field goal shooting, plus 4 assists and 3 steals. Fellow point guard Kostas Sloukas also excelled with a double-double of 15 points and 10 assists, while Jan Vesely scored 12 points and Marko Guduric and Erick Green both netted 11. Brandon Davies led Zalgiris with 25 points and 7 rebounds, and Nate Wolters registered 18 points, 4 assists and 2 steals.
Muhammed, Gigi Datome and Guduric gave Fener an early 0-7 burst, before Leo Westermann got Zalgiris moving from long range. Muhammed added a triple and a driving lay-up, and back-to-back baskets from Nicolo Melli made it a double-digit game. Sloukas converted a three-pointer and Vesely’s jumper extended the lead. Datome and Muhammed netted again from deep for a 10-27 edge, before a series of Zalgiris free throws and a buzzer-beating put-back from Deon Thompson made it 16-30 after the first quarter. Davies scored twice down low early in the second quarter, and Aaron White’s triple reduced the deficit to single digits at 25-34. Two quick baskets from Wolters maintained Zalgiris’s momentum, but Melih Mahmutoglu’s corner triple and three free throws reignited Fenerbahce. Arturas Milaknis answered with two strikes from deep, Davies dunked over Vesely, and a triple from Wolters made it 41-49 at the interval. Muhammed sank another three-pointer to start the second half, but Zalgiris responded with a 7-0 run including a big alley-oop from White. Muhammed struck from deep yet again, then added a coast-to-coast lay-up, and Vesely’s three-point play made it 48-60. Thomas Walkup, Davies and Edgaras Ulanovas responded down low, but Melli’s jumper kept the lead in double-digits, before Green entered the game to bury a triple and Sloukas did likewise for a 61-72 lead at the end of the third. Davies’s three-point play pulled Zalgiris closer, but Ahmet Duverioglu scored twice and back-to-back threes from Guduric extended the gap to 64-84 to cap a 0-12 run. That took the life out of Zalgiris’s challenge, despite another burst of scoring from Wolters and Davies, and Fenerbahce cruised the rest of the way.
Spectacular Muhammed the key
Ali Muhammed delivered one of the best performances of his career, netting 13 points in the first quarter to inspire his team’s fast start and 10 more in the third to stop Zalgiris’s comebacks in its tracks. Muhammed finished with 25 points, just 1 point short of the best of his 126-game EuroLeague career, while his PIR of 32 sets a new personal high.
Deadly shooting from Fenerbahce
Partly thanks to Muhammed, the visiting team recorded magnificent shooting statistics, making 22-of-31 attempts from two-point range (71%) and 15-of-22 three-pointers (68.2%) including 6 out of 6 in the first quarter. The Turkish team also made 10-of-11 free throws (90.9%). The 15 three-pointers is a new club record in the playoffs.
Sloukas helps set assists record
Another club record was set by Fenerbahce’s ability to share the ball, registering 7 assists in its first quarter burst on the way to a new club playoffs high of 24. Kostas Sloukas led the way with 10 and Jan Vesely dished 6. Sloukas also had a new career high with 4 steals.
Milestones for Green
Fenerbahce guard Erick Green recorded a couple of personal milestones, making his 100th EuroLeague appearance and scoring his 1000th point in the competition with a three-pointer seconds after entering the action.
Thursday, April 25, 2019