Sasha Vezenkov hands Olympiacos win at Zalgiris

2023-03-16T20:50:50+00:00 2023-03-16T23:25:43+00:00.

Antonis Stroggylakis

16/Mar/23 20:50

Olympiacos prevailed over Zalgiris and Sasha Vezenkov put on another MVP performance.

By Eurohoops team/

Sasha Vezenkov scored 25 points on 9-9 2-pointers, including the game-winner, as Olympiacos Piraeus beat Zalgiris Kaunas 74 – 72 on the road to remain in first place in the EuroLeague standings. Thanks to this win, the Reds also mathematically checked for a spot in the playoffs.

Vezenkov received the ball from Thomas Walkup with nine seconds to play and the score tied at 72. The Bulgarian forward pulled for the step-back jumper from mid-range over Tomas Dimsa’s raised arm and drained the bucket.

“I felt good, I felt confident as soon as the guys trusted me and the coaches gave me the ball”, Vezenkov said. He finished with also eight rebounds, two assists, and two steals. “I always think positive, so I was thinking I would make it [the game-winning shot]. In the beginning, I saw the ball a little bit short but in the end, everything went well.”

On the other end, Edgaras Ulanovas missed the floater and Zalgiris lost a key game in its race to make the EuroLeague playoffs. The Lithuanian side is currently 9th at 14-15.

Rolands Smits scored 18 points for Zalgiris while hitting a triple that put his team up 72 – 70 with 1:19 remaining after a comeback from down 14, 45 – 59 near the end of the third quarter. Dimsa dropped 17 points and Ulanovas had 12 points plus six assists.

Apart from Vezenkov, Shaq McKissic scored 18 points for an Olympiacos team that was without injured star guard Kostas Sloukas. Moustapha Fall posted a career-high seven assists to go with his six points.

Olympiacos playing with fire

Olympiacos head coach Georgios Bartzokas admitted that his team at some point of the game when they were leading simply stopped playing: “We lost our minds a little bit. When we took this difference, we missed a layup in transition and made a lot of mistakes. Basically, we stopped running on offense. They made three crucial three-point shots and came back to the game. They had the momentum but we managed to win the game. I really appreciate this win; it is always difficult to play here. You couldn’t hear anybody besides you, so it was a great win with this crucial basket by Vezenkov at the end and the last defense. It was really important for us”.

On the other hand, Zalgiris Kaunas coach Kazys Maksvytis felt this his team lost a good chance for a big win: “I think today, both teams deserved to win. Congratulations to Olympiacos. From our side, I am happy with the energy we had, and how we came back to the game, but it was not enough. We played against Olympiacos, which forced us to make many turnovers, and it cost us the game. I think we had a better first half, and they had two better plays at the end of the game. It didn’t go 100% well [the final play] because Ulanovas didn’t get the ball in the right spot. He improvised, and still got the ball, but with different spacing. But still, we had a chance to score and we didn’t.”

On the other hand, Olympiacos swinger Shaquielle McKissic explained what meant for him and the team playing without Kostas Sloukas and how the Greek guard affected him, even on his absence: “It was smooth [his performance]. We were without Sloukas tonight so it opened up some things for me. I was thinking pretty much, ‘What would Sloukas tell me?’ He told me to be aggressive, so that’s all I wanted to do. I don’t think anything in that fourth quarter kind of went according to plan. Hats off to Zalgiris, they are a hell of a team. They made it really difficult and tricky for us but we were able to push through and get the win.”