Doncic leads Madrid past Zalgiris at the finish!
With its top player this season sidelined and its home court under threat, Real Madrid relied on their teenage sensation to squeeze out a 96-91 home win on Friday against feisty Zalgiris Kaunas. Luka Doncic, all of 17 years old, drilled back-to-back three-pointers and insurance free throws for 8 of Madrid's last 10 points to lift his team's record to 8-3. His late heroics gave Doncic a career-high 17 points. Gustavo Ayon followed with 13, Anthony Randolph 11, Jonas Maciulis and Othello Hunter 10 each, while Rudy Fernandez dished 7 assists. Zalgiris got 19 points from Kevin Pangos, 17 from Brock Motum, 13 from Paulius Jankunas, 12 from Edgaras Ulanovas and 11 from Arturas Milaknis in defeat. Madrid now has a 14-1 record this century against Zagliris, whose record this season dropped to 3-8.
Madrid's Sergio Llull wore street clothes due to knee problems when he received his EuroLeague November MVP trophy in a pre-game ceremony. Kevin Pangos scored 5 quick points and Agusto Lima, on loan to Zalgiris from Madrid, slammed a tip-in for an early 7-7 tie that set the tone for the night. Motum from deep and Ayon inside, then Pangos from deep again and Doncic at the foul line kept it tied 13-13. Felipe Reyes scored inside and at the line for another tie that Milaknis answered with a triple, but Ayon sparked a 6-0 run that ended with his steal and fastbreak dunk for a 25-22 Madrid lead after 10 minutes. Fernandez's no-look pass to Randolph for a layup sent Madrid ahead 28-22, but again Milaknis steadied Zalgiris from long range, and his next triple was even quicker, hitting nothing but net for a 28-28 tie. Ulanovas then fed Javtokas for a go-ahead basket that Lukas Lekavicius turned into a 28-32 lead at the foul line. Randolph's jumper was matched by Ulanovas before Doncic fed Jeffery Taylor for a dunk. Pangos banked in triple, however, and then got 3 points the hard way as Zalgiris ran ahead 33-40. Maciulis responded for Madrid from downtown against his old team and then Andres Nocioni copied him in transition as Fernandez assisted both. Motum found an open layup and Ulanovos drilled a three to restore a 39-45 Zalgiris lead. Hunter took over then with free throws and a pair put-backs, one slammed on a fastbreak, to make it 45-45. Milaknis and Pangos each hit 2 free throws, Hunter just 1 of his, but then he assisted Nocioni for a game-tying corner triple for a 49-49 halftime score.
Ayon broke the tie to open the third-quarter scoring, then Doncic added a fullcourt layup to Madrid's tally. Jankunas scored his first points on a feed from Robertas Javtokas but Reyes matched that with free throws, and when Doncic pulled up for a triple it was 59-51 and Zalgiris needed a timeout. Ulanovas answered the call with a three-point play for Zalgiris. Doncic made a sweet layup before Maciulis made back-to-back three-pointers at 67-59. Ulanovas with free thorws cut it to 67-62. Fernandez made a nifty layup and Randolph free throws that Jankunas largely negated with 3 of 4 foul shots of his own at 71-65. Randolph's long two-pointer and one by Jankunas led to the latter's late fastbreak layup and a 74-69 score after 30 minutes. To open the fourth quarter, Hunter's three-point play restored Madrid's highest lead, then Randolph upped it to double-digits for the first time with free throws at 79-69. Motum's foul shots and a big slam by Ulanovas got Zalgiris closer again, 79-73. Jankunas banked in a left-hander next but Dontaye Draper erased that with free throws. Then Jankunas downed a put-back and Westermann rattled in a triple at 81-80 with 4:30 to play. A broken play extended the Zalgiris run to 0-8 when Lekavicius drilled a go-head triple at 81-83. Fernandez answered with game-tying free throws, then Ayon stole and raced the other way for a new Madrid lead. He soon added 1 of 2 free throws, but Motum was left open for a triple and another tie, 86-86, with 2 minutes left. Doncic did Motum not one better, but two, with a step-back triple from the top with 1:37 left, and after Ayon made a big offensive rebound, the exact same strike from the top with 44 seconds left, putting the game out of reach like few 17-year-olds in basketball history on a stage so big could say!
Thursday, December 8, 2016