As Zalgiris Kaunas was snapping its nine-game losing streak on Friday, it also made sure to leave no doubts. Zalgiris dominated host FC Bayern Munich for the majority of the night, opened a 24-point lead in the third quarter and never looked back in a 75-98 win. A team that had struggled offensively until now responded with not only one of its best offensive performances this season, but also in the 404 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague games that Zalgiris has played this century.
Those 98 points were 12 more than Zalgiris scored in any game this season, and the most Zalgiris has scored in a non-overtime road game in more than 15 years!
What's more, Zalgiris tied its club record with 29 assists after having surpassed 20 just once before this season, with 22 against Real Madrid in Round 3. Head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius's men took care of the basketball, committing just 7 turnovers, while their defense forced 20 from Bayern.
"We are playing good basketball for a while now, but we just cannot hit any shots", Jasikevicius pointed out after the game. "Sometimes, you have to look at basketball from the most simple perspective. If you hit shots, life is much easier for everybody. Everybody looks better and smarter."
Zalgiris indeed begin the game hot from long range, hitting 6 triples in the first 11 minutes. Five of them fell during a 2-21 spurt that bridged first and second quarters. It not only put Zalgiris in control but gave its shooters the confidence to unload a lot of pent-up energy. They had entered the game making just 6.7 triples per game at a rate of 31%, both league lows, and had never hit the bottom of the net from deep more than 11 times in any game this season.
In Munich, with Arturas Milaknis going 5-for-8 and K.C. Rivers 4-for-6 from the arc, Zalgiris nailed a season-high 13 threes. Not all of them were open, but when confidence was high, good shooters like Milaknis and Rivers felt like they could not miss. And all was orchestrated by Thomas Walkup, whose 11 assists and 3 steals powered the team on both ends of the floor.
The next step is to carry this over into the upcoming rounds. Zalgiris might be a co-owner of league's worst 4-12 record, but it is also just four games out of seventh place. More performances similar to this one in Munich could see Jasikevicius and his team turn that around, as they did last season by winning the last six games to reach the playoffs.