Zalgiris Kaunas has been solid defensively all season thus far and the Lithuanian champs showed once again in Round 6 that slowing down opposing teams has put them atop the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague standings. Zalgiris trailed by 13 points against LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne in the second quarter and gave up 50 points in the first 20 minutes. But Martin Schiller's men shut the door on ASVEL's offense after the intermission and prevailed 74-83 to improve to 5-1.
"In the second half there was a reaction that we expected, especially at the defensive end. We held them to 24 points, which was important for us," Schiller said after the game.
ASVEL managed just one made field goal in the third quarter - hitting just 8 free throws to make the 10 points in the third frame. And Zalgiris didn't give up a point in the fourth until more than 3 minutes into the quarter - after which the offense had finally broken through and taken its first lead of the game 60-61.
Powered by a career night from Marius Grigonis - setting personal marks with 25 points and an index rating of 27 - Zalgiris delivered enough offense in the second half to bounce back from a Round 5 loss against Valencia Basket.
In the end, Zalgiris gave up just 14 points in the fourth quarter. The two second-half quarters were the fourth and fifth this season in which Zalgiris kept opposing teams to 14 points or fewer. Olympiacos Piraeus scored only 9 points in the fourth quarter in Round 1 - a 9-21 final frame which ended with Zalgiris winning 67-68. In Round 2, Khimki Moscow Region managed only 12 points in the second quarter and Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade picked up just 9 points in the fourth quarter in Round 3.
Of course, there was a little different dynamic to the game with ASVEL, which had missed Rounds 3, 4 and 5 due to 11 players testing positive for COVID-19. The team was playing its first EuroLeague game since October 9.
"The first half was tough for us. We couldn't get any stops. In the end, they had not played in three weeks so they were out of breath, and we got a win," added Grigonis.
A win that came thanks to tough defense.