It was a tale of two halves on Thursday as Valencia Basket flipped an eight-point halftime deficit on the road for a convincing 82-94 victory in Kaunas. Playing against one of the EuroLeague's best defenses – previously unbeaten Zalgiris had allowed just 69.8 points per game before Round 5 – Valencia scored 57 in the second half alone! No doubt, the visitors ruled in the game's last 20 minutes, and the reasons were many.
For the winning coach, Jaume Ponsarnau, that sky-rocketing offense came from his team's improved defense, which trimmed Zalgiris from 45 points in the first half to 37 in the second. Ponsarnau saw his team had been "too predictable" before finding solutions on defense, after which came better shooting confidence at the other end.
"We found our efficiency, especially from the three-point line," Ponsarnau said.
Coach Martin Schiller of Zalgiris agreed and pointed to two Valencia shooters, especially, as the difference.
"The shot attempts from [Klemen] Prepelic and [Vanja] Marinkovic were a challenge for us," Schiller said. "They combined for 16 three-point [tries], which was too many for shooters like them. I think Marinkovic helped them spread the floor and, unfortunately, we couldn't limit the attempts of three-point shots for those two."
Marinkovic hit 3 of 4 triples and scored 11 of his team-high 16 points in the second half. Prepelic also scored 11 of his 13 points after the break, when he downed all 3 of his long-range tries. As a team, Valencia drilled 11 of 20 threes after halftime.
"It's difficult to win a game if the opponent is shooting that well plus giving you trouble inside," Schiller said.
Indeed, Valencia was mighty good inside, too. The visitors outrebounded Zalgiris 24-34 and made 22 of 30 two-pointers (73.3%). Louis Labeyrie shot 5 for 6 on twos, Bojan Dubljevic made 4 without a miss, and Nikola Kalinic was 3 for 3.
Valencia enjoyed excellent playmaking, as well, led by Sam Van Rossom, whose 8 assists came only 1 turnover. Valencia would finish with 25 assists, the club's new EuroLeague high in a road game. Prepelic, among five Valencia players with multiple assists, added 4.
Its strong defense, elite shooting, great rebounding and efficient playmaking added up. Valencia became the first team to stop Zalgiris this season and kept its name high in the standings with a 3-1 record.