Zalgiris are arguably the ‘people’s choice’ in this season’s EuroLeague playoffs and they went as far as to steal home court advantage away from the mighty Olympiacos on Wednesday night.
It took overtime to do it, but the Kaunas-based side recorded an 87-78 win that echoed throughout the EuroLeague as the first round of games concluded, with results near enough as everyone expected.
Despite the win, which some are calling an upset, despite it being the Lithuanian powerhouses’ third straight over Olympiacos this season, Zalgiris head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius has urged his players to not let the victory get to them – and to expect a different Piraeus side on Friday.
“On Friday they will be a better Olympiacos, more determined, and we must be ready for that,” Jasikevicius said.
“We must be very ambitious and try to take game two. We understand the situation Olympiacos is in, they’re missing some players. Some players coming back like Printezis showed a lack of rhythm, but we all know he’ll be better in game two.
“There’s no reason we’ve beaten Olympiacos three times this season. It’s all about one game at a time, one possession at a time, we understand who we’re facing. You cannot look two weeks ahead in this profession. Our future is tomorrow’s practice. That’s not even a cliché, it’s the biggest truth about our profession: only tomorrow exists.”
Appearing in the first playoff game in over a decade, Zalgiris are the sole team to take home court away in the four games played thus far, and as the Final Four could see a repeat of last year’s event with the same four teams, having a different team will certainly be a refreshing change to a format that has been altered to be more competitive.
Zalgiris leading Olympiacos as well as Panathinaikos leading Real Madrid in the other of the three quarter-final ties is welcomed by neutrals, who do not want to see the EuroLeague Final Four turning into a stale product with the same teams turning up each year.
Brandan Davis, who led Zalgiris with 21 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots is prepared for the grind but admits that his team should put this game to bed and focus on game two as if it were game one.
“It took everyone from the point guard to the bench, it was a grind out there and we had to fight all game long,” Davis commented.
“Against a good team that’s all, you can do. Now we’ve got to think of it as 0-0. They are too good a team for us to celebrate one win, we’ve got to get a good day’s rest and get ready to try to get another one.”