Stunning comeback leads Zalgiris past Olympiacos
Zalgiris Kaunas mounted a stunning second-half comeback to record a thrilling 83-75 victory over Olympiacos Piraeus in a red-hot atmosphere at Zalgirio Arena. The Reds led by 13 early in the second quarter after putting on a clinic of three-point shooting, but stiffened defense and dominance inside the paint allowed Zalgiris to fight back and surge clear. The home team was led by a career-high 19 points from Marius Grigonis, and Nate Wolters combined 14 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Three big men all scored in double figures, with Aaron White netting 13 while Antanas Kavaliauskas and Brandon Davies both scored 12. Olympiacos's night was summed up by Georgios Printezis, who scored 16 points in the first half, but only 2 the rest of the way. Zach LeDay contributed 15 points in defeat. Zalgiris improved to 5-6 with Olympiacos one win better at 6-5.
A trio of three-pointers from Printezis gave Olympiacos an early lead, but solid inside shooting, including three baskets by Kavaliauskas, sent Zalgiris ahead 14-13. Printezis's fourth triple restored the visitors' advantage and further long-range strikes from Kostas Papanikolaou and Janis Timma made it 16-24. Then Vassilis Spanoulis connected from downtown for a 19-29 lead after 10 minutes and LeDay started the second quarter in similar fashion with another triple. White and LeDay exchanged big dunks, but Zalgiris gradually pulled closer with another flurry of close-range scores. A triple from Grigonis – the first for Zalgiris – made it 38-42, but Papanikolaou and Janis Strelnieks struck again from deep and it was 40-48 at the break. Zalgiris started the second half with an 8-0 burst to tie as Davies stepped up, but another triple – this time from Timma – sent Olympiacos back in front. 4 points from Spanoulis protected a narrow lead, but a thrilling finish to the third saw both White and Wolters steal and score to give Zalgiris its first lead, 60-59. Wolters netted again at the start of the fourth before Edgaras Ulanovas and Arturas Milaknis buried key triples to complete a 12-0 run. LeDay's mid-range jumper ended that sequence and a Nigel Williams-Goss three gave Olympiacos further hope, but Wolters struck from deep and Grigonis also nailed a three-pointer for a 76-66 lead with 2:24 left. There was no way back from there, and the home fans celebrated raucously.
Defense the difference for Zalgiris
It's easy to identify the key factor in this game: Zalgiris's vastly improved defense after the opening quarter. Olympiacos led 19-32 early in the second, but could only score another 43 points in the remaining 28 minutes as the home team increased its intensity and forced the Reds into committing 16 turnovers, led by 5 from Vassilis Spanoulis.
Grigonis enjoys a break-out night
The highest scorer of the evening was an unpredictable figure: Marius Grigonis had never scored more than three field goals in a EuroLeague game before, with free throws contributing heavily to his previous career-high of 13 points. But the 24-year-old guard, who grew up with Zalgiris and returned this summer after five years away, was unstoppable on this occasion, netting 5 of 6 two-pointers and 3 of 4 triples for a total of 19 points.
Printezis's incredible start to no avail
Georgios Printezis has played 265 games in the EuroLeague, but he has surely not made many better starts than on Friday night. The veteran forward scored 4 three-pointers in the first five minutes and also added a two-pointer and a block as his team surged clear. But he was then stifled and didn't score in the second half until just 8 seconds remained for the final basket of the game.
Zalgiris will seek its third straight win with a road trip to FC Bayern Munich next Friday. Olympiacos hosts high-flying Anadolu Efes Istanbul a day earlier.
Thursday, December 6, 2018