Pangos, Zenit soar into eighth place!
Zenit St Petersburg soared into the playoffs with the highest scoring total of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season in a resounding 112-83 home win against visiting Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Monday. Zenit finished the regular season with a 20-14 record to make the playoffs in eighth place, one victory ahead of Valencia Basket, which would have gone to the playoffs in a tiebreaker had Zenit lost. Zenit will face first-place FC Barcelona in the best-of-five playoffs starting April 21. Zenit scored the game's first 11 points, and though Panathinaikos got as close as 49-45 shortly after halftime, the lead was never really challenged and the hosts took off from there for leads as high as 29 points. Kevin Pangos set Zenit's club scoring mark with 33 points, 7-for-14 three-point shooting, and dished 11 assists. Will Thomas didn't miss a shot on his way to 18 points, while Billy Baron scored 12, Arturas Gudaitis and Mateusz Ponitka 11 each. Panathinaikos, which fell to 11-22 and still has one game remaining, got 20 points from Nemanja Nedovic, 16 from Ioannis Papapetrou and 10 from Aaron White.
Pangos sandwiched 2 triples around one by Austin Hollins as Zenit rocketed to an 11-0 start. Papapetrou responded with the next 5 points for Panathinaikos, but Hollins went deep again to make it 14-5. Nedovic and Konstantinos Mitoglou scored for the visitors at 16-9 before Thomas dunked in a miss for Zenit. Mitoglou's put-back, Papapetrou's layup and Georgios Papagiannis's free throw soon had the visitors within 18-14. Pangos answered with another triple before his unsportsmanlike foul turned into a four-point possession that Zach Auguste finished for Panathinaikos. Auguste and Lefteris Bochoridis drew the Greens within 23-22 before Pangos capped the quarter with his fourth triple already for a 26-22 Zenit lead. Baron hit his trademark triple and scored 3 more points the hard way to lift the difference to 32-24 early in the second quarter. Howard Sant Roos hit from deep for Panathinaikos shortly before Papagiannis tipped in a miss to make it 34-31. Thomas hit a triple and Gudaitis a layup out of a Zenit timeout but White and Nedovic matched them at 39-36. Thomas, Gudaitis and Ponitka combined for 5 points in a row before Papapetrou beat the halftime buzzer as Zenit held a 47-40 advantage after 20 minutes.
Ponitka drove for a layup and Nedovic hit a triple to start the second-half scoring before Mitoglou's tough inside basket made it 49-45. Pangos drilled another three-pointer that both Mitoglou and Thomas matched. Gudaitis tacked on free throws, Pangos dropped a jumper and Thomas scored again for a 61-48 edge. Papapetrou revived the Greens from the arc, but both Pangos and Baron doubled him with 2 triples each as the lead soared to 76-60 after three quarters. Pangos fed Alex Poythress for a dunk on the way to a high lead of 83-63 early in the fourth quarter. Panathinaikos soon scored 6 unanswered points to close within 84-72 with 7 minutes left but Pangos returned with his seventh triple and a layup to make it 94-76 and end all doubt about Zenit's next stop, the playoffs!
Pangos set personal highs and Zenit club records in the EuroLeague with 33 points and a performance index rating of 41. His scoring surpassed the previous mark of 28 by Austin Hollins and his PIR the 32 by Will Thomas, both last season. Pangos also matched the Zenit record with his 7 three-pointers in 12 tries, which he shares now with Hollins and teammate K.C. Rivers. Finally, he dished 11 of his team's 23 assists, personally matching the total for the whole Panathinaikos team.
Pascual's playoffs touch
By reaching the playoffs with Zenit, head coach Xavi Pascual continues his unbroken streak of qualifying to the post-season in every full season he has coached any EuroLeague team. He did so eight times with FC Barcelona, the team he will face in the playoffs starting next week. He did so with Panathinaikos once, in 2017-18, and now with Zenit, for a total of 10 playoffs appearances in 10 full seasons. He also took over two teams in mid-season, Barcelona in 2007-08 and Panathinaikos in the 2016-17 season, and pushed them to the playoffs. That makes Pascual 12 for 12 in playing the postseason when he has finished the EuroLeague Regular Season with his teams.
Zenit to face Barcelona in playoffs
Zenit's 20-14 final regular season record is the same as both Real Madrid and Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul. Since Real was 4-0 in games between them, Fenerbahce 2-2 and Zenit 0-4, they occupy the sixth, seventh and eighth places, respectively. That sends Zenit forward to face first-place Barcelona in the playoffs. A native of Barcelona, Zenit head coach Pascual coached his hometown team for nine-plus seasons from early 2008 until 2016, highlighted by winning the EuroLeague title in 2011. Zenit star point guard Kevin Pangos spent the last two seasons with Barcelona, although he did not appear at all in the last one due to injury.
Baron's record shooting
After hitting 3 shots from downtown on Monday, Zenit marksman Billy Baron has now made three-pointers in 24 consecutive games, tying the all-time in-season EuroLeague record held by four other players: Trajan Langdon of CSKA Moscow (2005-06), Justin Dentmon of Zalgiris Kaunas (2013-14), Milos Teodosic of CSKA (2014-15) and Scottie Wilbekin of Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv over the first 24 games of this season. If he plays and hits from the arc in Game 1 of the playoffs, Baron will break the record. If not, his teammate Kevin Pangos, who took his own streak of made three-pointers to 23 games on Monday, could do so by Game 2 of the playoffs against his old team, Barcelona.
Zenit advanced in eighth place and earned a spot in the best-of-five playoffs against first-place Barcelona. Game 1 of their series will be in Barcelona on Wednesday, April 21. Panathinaikos stays on in Russia to play a rescheduled Round 25 game against second-place CSKA in Moscow on Wednesday. That will be the final game of 306 in the EuroLeague Regular Season.
Monday, April 12, 2021