Baskonia takes history rally past Zenit
In one of the wildest comebacks in Turkish Airlines EuroLeague history, TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz improved its playoffs chances by rallying past host Zenit St Petersburg for a 75-79 victory at Sibur Arena on Thursday. Baskonia improved to 16-15 to remain ninth in the standings, right behind Zenit, which dropped to 16-14. Alec Peters led the winners with 17 points. Luca Vildoza added 15 while Rokas Giedraitis had 12 for Baskonia. Mateusz Ponitka led Zenit with 15 points. KC Rivers added 14 while Billy Baron had 12 for the hosts. Zenit used a 22-3 run to get a double-digit margin, 45-32, at halftime. The hosts extended its margin to 59-45 at the end of the third quarter and led 72-58 with 4:30 to play. Baskonia, true to its trademark character, then shook the EuroLeague playoffs race and record books with a 0-19 run to seize a crucial victory from the jaws of defeat!
Ponitka got Zenit going with a jumper that Giedraitis bettered with a three-pointer. Ponitka answered from downtown but Peters singlehandedly gave Baskonia a 5-9 lead. Tonye Jekiri hit a jump hook and a red-hot Peters added a layup although Rivers kept the hosts within 8-13. Jekiri kept pacing Baskonia with a backdoor layup and Pierria Henry scored off a steal but Kevin Pangos and Baron each struck from beyond the arc to keep Zenit as close as 14-17 after 10 minutes. Dmitry Khvostov hit a floater and Baron buried a three-pointer for a 19-17 Zenit lead early in the second quarter. Andrey Zubkov and Arturas Gudaitis each added a put-back basket, Khvostov followed a driving layup with a jumper, and an unstoppable Baron sank a pair of shots from downtown to break the game open, 33-20. Vildoza also struck twice from beyond the arc and added a jumper but Ponitka and Pangos restored a 38-28 Zenit lead. Rivers hit from deep, getting help from Alex Poythress and Will Thomas to boost Zenit's lead to 45-32 at halftime.
Giedraitis hit a floater right after the break and Peters added a layup but Ponitka buried a three-pointer for a 48-36 Zenit lead. Jekiri scored down low and Peters struck from downtown to give Baskonia hope at 48-41. Ponitka scored off a spin move and Thomas hit back-to-back triples, igniting an 11-0 run highlighted by Poythress's layup for a 59-41 Zenit lead, which Zoran Dragic and Youssoupha Fall cut to 59-45 after 30 minutes. Fall downed a jump-hook early in the fourth quarter and Vildoza scored in transition to get Baskonia even closer, 59-49. Ponitka and Rivers each hit a triple but Fall and Achille Polonara kept the guests within 65-54 with over 6 minutes left. Gudaitis buried a hook shot, Zubkov swished a long two-pointer and Rivers hit from the arc as Zenit boosted its lead to a seemingly insurmountable 72-58 with under 5 minutes left. Polonara and Giedraitis answered from downtown and Henry added a three-point play to get Baskonia suddenly as close as 72-69 in the next-to-last minute. Polonara took over with a layup-plus-foul that tied it, 72-72, with 1:03 left. Vildoza completed Baskonia's wild comeback with a corner triple, good for a 72-75 lead with 24.9 seconds left. Pangos missed and Giedraitis hit free throws to cap a 0-19 run. Rivers buried a triple with 5.1 seconds remaining but Giedraitis sealed the outcome with a floater.
Achille Polonara had 6 points in crunch time to make the difference in the game. He finished the game with 9 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and 3 fouls drawn for a PIR of 16. He was the catalyst in Baskonia's comeback.
Zenit led 72-58 with more than 4 minutes left but Baskonia chose to fight. Achille Polonara and Rokas Giedraitis sparked the guests' comeback with a three-pointer each. Pierria Henry added an off-balance three-point play, Polonara copied him right after that, and Luca Vildoza buried the biggest shot of the night, a corner triple for a 72-75 Baskonia lead with 24.9 seconds left. Giedraitis capped a 0-19 run from the foul line, sealing Baskonia's win.
Baskonia went to the foul line more often and hit 17 of 18 free throws attempts (94.4%). Zenit only made 4 of 6 foul shots (66.7%). Baskonia also outrebounded Zenit by 30-38, pulling down 17 offensive rebounds to match its season-high from Round 2 against Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade.
Did you know?
Baskonia's win means that no teams can qualify to the playoffs in Round 30. Both AX Armani Exchange Milan and Anadolu Efes Istanbul had chances to punch their playoff ticket but all possible combinations involveed Zenit beating Baskonia. As such, as playoffs race continues with seven spots still available with just four games left!
Both teams return to EuroLeague action next Friday, March 26. Zenit visits Khimki Moscow Region in an all-Russian showdown. Baskonia hosts AX Armani Exchange Milan.
Thursday, March 18, 2021