Zenit locks down ALBA for road win
Zenit St Petersburg salvaged split of the double-round week by ambushing ALBA Berlin in the German capital with a defensive-minded 66-73 victory on Friday. Its first victory ever in three tries against ALBA lifted Zenit's record to 4-2 and left the German club with a 2-6 mark thus far. Will Thomas led the winners with 17 points to go with 5 rebounds, while Arturas Gudaitis followed with 16 and 3, respectively. Mateusz Ponitka was right behind with 14 points. Ben Lammers recorded a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double for ALBA to go with 2 blocks. However, none of his teammates joined him in double figures as ALBA's 66 points matched its lowest in the last two seasons under head coach Aito Garcia Reneses.
Austin Hollins, Thomas and Lammers all hit a pair of baskets as Zenit took an early 4-8 lead. Niels Giffey joined Lammers in ALBA's scoring column as all the action remained. Johannes Thiemann, Alex Poythress, Giffey and Andrey Zubkov kept the two-pointers falling without answer from the three-point line as Zenit held a 10-12 lead after 10 minutes. The trading of baskets inside continued into the second quarter with even ALBA three-point ace Marcus Eriksson settling for two. Jayson Granger's first bucket put ALBA up 16-14 as the teams combined already for 16 missed threes. Zubkov finally broke the spell on the 17th collective try and Ponitka followed him to send Zenit to the game's biggest lead yet, 18-24. Despite an ALBA timeout, Zenit kept rolling to an 18-29 advantage as Kevin Pangos hit from deep. An exchange of free throws preceded Pangos feeding Poythress to make it 22-33 at halftime. After Thomas opened the second half from deep, Jonas Mattissek was cornered before he ended the hosts' triple drought on their 12th try. He came back for another at 30-38 but Poythress helped Zenit restored a double-digit lead until Luke Sikma's three-point play at 37-45. Granger's high-banked layup and assist to Giffey got ALBA closer before Zenit stayed ahead 43-51 after 30 minutes. Thiemann's bucket to start the fourth quarter was bettered with an and-one play by Arturas Gudaitis to make it 45-54. Gudaitis started moving bodies and taking names for 2 free throws and a new three-point play, on which he made his 10th free throw without a miss for a 45-59 lead. Lammers and Thiemann drew ALBA back to within 51-61 heading into the last 10 minutes. Lammers kept the home fires burning for the hosts, and when he scored again after Peyton Siva's triple, ALBA was within 58-63 with 2 minutes left. Dimitry Khvostov, Lammers and Ponitka hit 2 free throws each for a 60-67 Zenit lead. Within the final minute, Ponitka added 2 more as Granger missed as many and Siva converted a three-point play at 63-69 with 27 seconds left. The parade of free throws continued and, though interrupted by a triple from Siva, Zenit made sure to take the victory back to St Petersburg.
Zenit got veteran leadership from Will Thomas in the paint, where most of the action took place all game. His 17 points and 5 rebounds were the basis for his team-high 24 performance index rating, which was matched by Gudaitis.
The game was won inside by Zenit, whose forwards and centers hit 15 of 17 two-point tries on the night. Zubkov, Gudaitis and Poythress went a perfect 3-for-3 each while Thomas was 4-for-5 and Ponitka 2-for-3 inside.
When Zenit wasn't downing inside shots, those big men were getting fouled, and they were the basis for a club-record 27 free throws made out of 28 tries. Only once has the club shot a better percentage and that was a 6-for-6 effort, so this was really Zenit's best night on the foul line. Gudaitis was 10-for-10, his best without a miss ever, while Thomas hit 6 of 6 and Ponitka 7 of 8.
One reason for the defensive nature of the game was both teams starting it with 16 missed three-pointers between them. Zenit solved that in the second quarter but ALBA waited until 21:30 had elapsed before Jonas Mattisseck hit a couple, the only ones for the home team through two quarters. ALBA's woes worsened when its designated marksman from deep, Marcus Eriksson, went down injured late in the first half, being seen on crutches only after that. Thus ended his streak of 27 consecutive EuroLeague games making a three-pointer.
In Round 11, ALBA receives another Russia visitor, Khimki Moscow Region, on Thursday, November 26. Zenit, meanwhile, stays on the road to visit Zalgiris Kaunas the same night.
Friday, November 20, 2020