Zalgiris made it possible – again

Nov 02, 2019 by Print
Zalgiris made it possible – again

Late in the 2018-19 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season, Zalgiris beat FC Bayern Munich to raise its record to 11-15 but still sit 12th in the standings with four games remaining. When Bayern head coach Dejan Radonjic was asked about Zalgiris's playoffs chances, he smiled, thinking the Lithuanian powerhouse was almost eliminated.

"It's possible," Zalgiris press officer Almantas Kiveris told a skeptical Radonjic, trying to help him out. Indeed, Zalgiris went on to win its next four games after that, including road victories against Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, Olympiacos Piraeus and Real Madrid, to reach the playoffs against Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul. Zalgiris managed to steal the home-court advantage in the series but ended up losing 3-1 against the Turkish powerhouse.

Thursday marked Zalgiris's first game at Ulker Sports Arena since last season's playoffs, and the Lithuanian powerhouse stood loyal to its motto: to make impossible things possible. After a hard-fought battle, a dunk by Derrick Williams gave Fenerbahce a 76-69 margin with 1:36 left. Eight seconds later, Zach Leday traveled, giving the hosts the ball back.

All Fenerbahce fans were celebrating a sure win when Marius Grigonis rolled off a screen to get the ball in front of Jan Vesely beyond the three-point line. Vesely slipped a bit, enough for Grigonis to pull the trigger and score from downtown. It was 76-72 with 50.9 seconds left, and Fenerbahce head coach Zeljko Obradovic took a timeout.

Then came the key play, the one that brought Zalgiris fully back the game. Luigi Datome was double-teamed by Grigonis and Edgaras Ulanovas, who got the steal. Nigel Hayes picked up the deflected ball, scored and drew a foul, hitting the extra free throw. Now it was 76-75 with 47.2 seconds left. Next, great team defense forced Kostas Sloukas into an airball to give Zalgiris possession with 23.8 seconds left.

Zalgiris run a play on the left side, with LeDay setting screens for Thomas Walkup and Grigonis to play two-on-two. Grigonis got the ball, ran to the basket and scored the go-ahead basket with a double-pump shot while sandwiched between two defenders. Zalgiris now led 76-77 with 7.1 seconds left. When Jan Vesely missed at the other end and Grigonis drew a foul, the game was over.

It was possible. And Zalgiris made it happen.