2008 Top 16 profile: Zalgiris

Jan 29, 2008 by Euroleague.net Print

Regular Season:
4th, Group A, 8-6

Team Rankings
5th points
6th two-point %
4th rebounds

Rimantas Grigas - Zalgiris
Rimantas Grigas
A five-win streak of inspired basketball resulted in Zalgiris returning to the Top 16 a year after suffering through one of its worst Euroleague seasons ever. The team shook off the early-season departure of fan favorite Tanoka Beard and bided its time until rallying behind a Euroleague icon, shooting guard Marcus Brown, when the moment was right. During the regular season, Brown not only reclaimed his title as the competition's top scorer all decade, but was named December MVP thanks to his phenomenal series of performances in lifting Zalgiris among the Group A challengers. Zalgiris could not buy a road win during a 2-4 start, but started turning around its season by knocking off Tau Ceramica at home with Brown as the hero. There followed three victories against lower-placed teams, two on the road, sandwiched around a home win over eventual second-place finisher Montepaschi Siena. Brown was the common denominator in four of those victories, plus a later one that kept Olympiacos behind Zalgiris, but he has plenty help on a team that did everything well without doing anything spectacular, statistically speaking. Seven players averaged between 7 and 14.3 points for Zalgiris, while six had 4 rebounds or more per game. The straw stirring the drink is DeJuan Collins, who was the Euroleague assists king in the regular season. The energy guys were young forwards Jonas Maciulis and Paulius Jankunas, joined this season by Goran Jurak.
Marcus Brown - Zalgiris Kaunas
Marcus Brown
In the scoring department, Brown and Collins have Marko Popovic helping them off the bench. Big man Eurelijus Zukauskas ranked fourth in blocked shots, and now gets help from mid-season acquisition Michael Bradley. An extra shooter, Damir Markota, is signed and on the way, too. Nonetheless, the Top 16 challenge for Zalgiris won't be scoring more, but defending better. Zalgiris ranked in the middle of the regular season pack in most team stats categories except rebounding, where it finished sixth-best overall, and points-against defense, where it ranked seventh-worst - and lowest among all Top 16 qualifiers. The moment its defense improves, watch out for Zalgiris.

Zalgiris Kaunas head coach Rimantas Grigas: "There are no easy opponents in the Top 16. It's just a pity that we got Olympiacos from the fourth pot. We wanted to avoid them because it is one of strongest teams in the Euroleague. With Giannakis as a new coach, that team will be very hard to beat for everybody. Real and Maccabi are also very strong and we have very serious competition ahead of us."
Zalgiris general manager Gediminas Navikauskas: "I think that Draw was not good for us because we got three different opponents such as Real Madrid, Maccabi Elite and Olympiacos. We are set to play six very tough games and will hopefully manage to finish in one of the top 2 spots to stay alive in the competition. We wish we could have been placed in an easier group, but all 16 teams are very strong and making it to the playoffs will be difficult for everybody. We hope to stay strong in Kaunas and get at least one win on the road to make it to the next round."