Zalgiris comes from behind to overcome Darussafaka
Zalgiris Kaunas showed that persistence pays off by mounting a fourth quarter comeback over Darussafaka Tefken Istanbul to claim a 71-75 road victory. The home side led nearly all the way but Zalgiris was at its best when it mattered the most, going ahead for good through Leo Westermann’s three-pointer with 26 seconds remaining. Zalgiris gave a big boost to its playoffs push by improving to 6-7, but last-placed Darussafaka drops to 1-12. Brandon Davies led the Lithuanian champ with 17 points, Westermann added 12 while Aaron White and Marius Grigonis both scored 10 for Zalgiris, which scored more than a third of its total points (28) from the free throw line. Ray McCallum paced Darussafaka with 17 points including 4 three-pointers.
Michael Eric started the scoring with a layup before Davies made a three-point play for an early Zalgiris lead. But then Markel Brown made a pair of three-pointers and Darussafaka started to take charge at the end of the first through baskets from Eric and Toney Douglas. Dogus Ozdemiroglu made a rare steal from the inbound pass to score at the start of the second quarter and a lay-up from Oguz Savas made it 23-15. Davies brought Zalgiris back with 6 straight points, and Edgaras Ulanovas made free throws to complete a 3-12 run for a 26-27 lead. Several lead changes followed before the hosts finished the first half strong through Jon Diebler, who scored 9 quick points including a pair of triples for a 39-33 half-time lead. McCallum struck two triples and Diebler added another for a 48-40 lead midway through the third, with only a pair of baskets from Davies keeping Zalgiris afloat. Grigonis hit from deep but Diebler fed Eric for a big slam, and it was 53-49 after three quarters. Thomas Walkup took over early in the fourth, scoring 6 points including a brutal slam to send Zalgiris ahead. But the hosts responded as Jeremy Evans scored twice in a row and Brown struck from deep for a 66-61 lead. McCallum and White traded both triples and two-pointers to make it 71-70 inside the final minute, before Westermann sent Zalgiris ahead from beyond the arc with 26 seconds left and then made free throws to seal the deal.
Davies saves best for last
Brandon Davies continued his outstanding season by once again leading the scoring for Zalgiris with 17 points, but his most important single contribution came at the other end of the court: in the final seconds of the game with Zalgiris leading by two points, Ray McCallum led Darussafaka’s last possession and drove towards the basket before attempting to find Michael Eric for a game-tying basket, but Davies was in perfect place to protect the lead with a key steal, and the game was effectively over.
Foul trouble for Darussafaka
Darussafaka’s cause wasn’t helped by serious foul trouble in the fourth quarter. Toney Douglas reached five fouls early in the final period, and another trio of key players were on four during much of the last quarter: Markel Brown, Michael Eric and Jeremy Evans. They survived the remainder of the action but coach Ernak Selcuk – in his first home game – certainly had to think harder than he would have liked about his rotations.
Zalgiris makes free throws pay
The foul trouble encountered by Darussafaka ensured plenty of trips to the foul line for Zalgiris, which took advantage by making 28 of its 35 free throw attempts – the fourth-highest number of attempts for any team this season. Two of the top three were also achieved by Zalgiris, which clearly counts drawing fouls among its most significant strategies.
Zalgiris returns to Lithuania on Friday to welcome Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, and Darussafaka travels to take on Khimki Moscow Region.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018