Friday night was a good one for Arturas Gudaitis. Playing against his former club Zalgiris Kaunas – an occasion he described as "always something special" – the Zenit St Petersburg big man grabbed a key role in his team's latest victory, leading the game in points, rebounds and PIR with 15, 8 and 28, respectively. He also recorded 1 blocked shot, allowing him to reach the milestone of 100 for his Turkish Airlines EuroLeague career.
The Lithuanian center's excellent performance marked the third consecutive game in which he has recorded a PIR in the 20s. In Round 18 he scored 25 points for a ranking of 24 against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, and then had 22 points plus 6 rebounds for a PIR of 28 earlier in this double-round week against FC Bayern Munich.
During those last three games, Gudaitis has averaged 20.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and a PIR of 26.7, converting an excellent 20 of his 26 two-point attempts (76.9%) and using his physicality to draw 20 fouls, allowing him to convert a more than solid 22 of 28 shots from the foul line (79.6%).
He has only achieved this kind of consistency on one previous occasion over the course of his six seasons in the competition: back in 2018-19, his second year with AX Armani Exchange Milan, he reached a PIR of at least 21 in four consecutive games between Rounds 3 and 6, bagging a pair of double-doubles on the way.
At the age of 27, Gudaitis is in his prime. And after a relatively quiet start to the season, the latest stats show that he has now settled in very nicely with Zenit after joining the Russian club in the summer.
In recent weeks, his good form has been particularly important because Zenit has been playing without athletic big man Alex Poythress, who has not appeared in January due to injury. That has forced an extra burden on Gudaitis, who has averaged 28 minutes on the floor in the last three games – a big jump up from his season average of just over 20. That kind of playing time in the physically demanding position inside the paint is probably unsustainable in the long-term, so the good news is that help is on the way following the club's acquisition of Tarik Black.
Gudaitis, though, will continue to form a very important part of Coach Xavi Pascual's plans, and on his current form he could help the dark horses of Zenit achieve far more than anyone could have believed was possible.