Baskonia wins road opener in Kaunas
KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz started the season in style by downing Zalgiris Kaunas 79-87 in front of more than 15,000 fans at Zalgirio Arena on Friday. Jayson Granger paced the winners with 15 points on 5-of-7 three-point shots. Shavon Shields added 14, Toko Shengelia had 12 while Marcelinho Huertas and Matt Janning each got 11 for Baskonia. Nate Wolters had 19 points for Zalgiris while Arturas Milaknis added 12. Back-to-back floaters by Wolters gave Zalgiris a 10-9 lead. Granger and Matt Janning each struck from downtown for a 10-15 Baskonia edge but Wolters and Laurynas Birutis helped Zalgiris restore a 24-22 lead after 10 minutes. Huertas and Darrun Hilliard took over early in the second quarter and a tip-in by Ilimane Diop made it a four-point game, 30-34. Three-pointers by Granger and Hilliard kept Baskonia in charge, 39-42, at halftime. Janning and Shields kept pacing Baskonia, keeping the guests ahead, 46-51, midway through the third quarter. Huertas stepped up with five quick points and an alleyoop dunk by Vincent Poirier made it a double-digit game, 49-59. The guests kept a 53-63 margin after 30 minutes, extended it to 59-76 behind an unstoppable Granger and cruised to a well-deserved road win.
As always, Shengelia did a little bit of everything to help his team win. He had 12 points, hit a couple of shots from downtown, drew six fouls and pulled down six defensive boards, helping Baskonia outrebound Zalgiris by 18-27. Once again, Shengelia showed leadership in a tough basketball environment.
Granger controlled the game tempo and hit every critical shot his team needed to win the game. He hit back-to-back outstanding three-point shots in the fourth quarter – one when double-teamed in the right corner, another from way downtown – that sealed the outcome many minutes before the final buzzer.
In a game in which both teams shot well inside the arc – Zalgiris 64.1%, Baskonia 64.5% – three-pointers made the difference. Zalgiris hit just 4-of-11 shots from downtown (36.4%) while Baskonia buried 12-of-28 (42.9%), with six different players scoring at least once from beyond the arc.
Did you notice?
A minute of silence was kept to honor Grigorij Khizhnyak, the best per-minute shot blocker in EuroLeague history, who passed away earlier this month.
Zalgiris plays its first road game of the season against Anadolu Efes Istanbul on Wednesday. Later on that day, Baskonia hosts Olympiacos Piraeus at Fernando Buesa Arena, home of the 2019 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four.
Friday, October 12, 2018