Zalgiris Earn Solid Road Win Over Barcelona

Euroleague Basketball
Zalgiris Kaunas Celebrates - courtesy of Euroleague.net

Zagiris Kaunas won a big 88-92 road victory over FCB Barcelona in the Euroleague on Thursday evening. With both teams already qualified for the Top 16 the stakes weren’t huge but it makes the jostling for position in the group a little more interesting as Barcelona fall to second place and gives Zalgiris a better chance at finishing third in Group C.

Barcelona spent the first half chasing Zalgiris Kaunas, never allowing them to completely pull away but never regaining the lead either. Despite travelling lighter than the hosts Zalgiris managed to control the tempo of the game for the most part. The third quarter which is where Barcelona have been putting opponents away with a barrage of three pointers and dunks opened and closed with the Lithuanians seven ahead. The pace of the game nearly ground to a halt in the home side’s attempt to disrupt the visitor’s rhythm but Zalgiris held strong against the effort.

Despite the loss, Ante Tomic shot an astounding 11 out of 11 from the field and only missed one of his seven free throws. Unsurprisingly this effort led scoring in the game with with 28.

Carlos Arroyo was the driving force for Barcelona in the first half and narrowed the deficit to single figures when they’d been trailing by 10 or more for a significant portion of both the first and second quarters. Arroyo had 15 first half points and was the only player to score from beyond the arc for the home side in the first half, managing to do it three times (Two of them on back to back plays) but ultimately went cold in the latter half and saw limited minutes for the remainder of the game.

Something seemed off with Barcelona as they couldn’t find their offensive rhythm with missed threes and botched layups both a theme of the night. Stratos Perperoglou with 10 points was the only other player to reach double figures on the scoreboard for Barcelona. Tomas Satoransky and Aleksandar Vezenkov also showed some spirit but couldn’t transform hustle into points.

And while Barcelona only had five players register on the board in the first half, nine of Zalgiris’ 10 players registered on the scoreboard in the same period.

The leading contributors for the victors were Paulius Jankunas (with 17 points), Mantas Kalnietis (16) and Olivier Hanlan (14). Despite Barcelona’s three point proficiency thus far this season, the Lithuanian side scored seven beyond the arc to Barcelona’s four. On top of this Barcelona’s interior defence wasn’t to be seen as Zalgiris had their way in the paint.

Zalgiris’ head coach Gintaras Krapikas won a bronze medal playing for the Lithuanian national side in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and this return to the city was a big win for him after Zalgiris had couple of shaky road games:

“We played two really bad games on the road. We spoke before the game about being much more aggressive and much more active on the court. We showed that we can score way over our average if we are ready to do it 100%.”

The sole source of relief for Barcelona was comic as a fan pleaded with a steward to reprimand early leavers in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter to the amusement of his friends before a presumably superior steward came over to either chastise or appease the indignant fan.

Barcelona will jockey for first place in the group as they face Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in Russia next week while Zalgiris will host Panathinaikos in Lithuania in a match-up that’s potentially for third place in Group C before the league breaks for Christmas and resumes before the New Year with the Top 16.