Zalgiris Kaunas proved once again on Friday night it is truly a team that refuses to go away. In a must-win situation on the road against Olympiacos Piraeus, Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius’s men rallied from a 12-point deficit late in the third quarter to stun the home side 68-72.
The team's fifth consecutive victory kept alive Zalgiris’s once slim – but now pretty decent – playoff chances. It was also the second consecutive road game, after a trip to Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv last Wednesday, in which Zalgiris overcame a double-digit deficit on the road against a fellow playoff contender.
"We haven't played our best basketball, but at the same time, we keep fighting and fighting and manage to pull the games out," Jasikevicius said, referring to his team’s offensive struggles. The team allowed a 12-1 run in the second quarter to fall behind 36-28 just before halftime and then failed to score for more than 4 minutes in the third quarter as Olympiacos opened a 51-39 lead. But this squad simply does not go away.
"I think the players' character made the difference," Jasikevicius pointed out. His team overcame foul trouble to its leader Brandon Davies and also did something it rarely does in an attempt to get the offense going: shot from long range often.
Zalgiris fired up 24 three-point attempts, tied for its second-most this season, and almost 8 more than its per-game average. Somehow, however, Zalgiris still remained patient in this high-pressure game, never panicking on offense to find those open looks and knock down enough of them. Arturas Milaknis, Leo Westermann and Aaron White all hit timely triples, while Davies and Deon Thompson battled inside and won the rebounding battle against an Olympiacos frontcourt featuring on of EuroLeague's top rebounders, Nikola Milutinov.
Zalgiris did not dominate and did not shine, but it impressed by sticking to the gameplan of playing five-on-five basketball even when it did not always work because the team knew that gives it the best chance. Ultimately, that patience paid off and kept Zalgiris's miracle run towards the playoffs alive.