By Eurohoops team/ email@example.com
In jampacked Zalgirio Arena, Zalgiris Kaunas recorded a convincing 95-74 win over Valencia Basket, keeping the playoff hopes alive and officially eliminating Valencia from contention.
Kazys Maksvytis’ team improved to 17-15 with two games left, while Valencia suffered its sixth defeat in the last seven games and won’t be able to change their destiny in the previous two rounds.
It was a great team effort from Zalgiris, with six double-digit players. Lukas Lekavicius led the scoring charts with 16 points, but Arnas Butkevicius had the highest PIR of 21 on the winning side, scoring 11 points, with four rebounds and steals, and three rebounds.
“First of all, we were very motivated before the game. We knew this was like a final for us, a very important game. We stuck to our game plan and hit some lucky shots. Karolis Lukosiunas stepped up, so that was the key. We need to take a rest; it was a difficult week for us. For sure, we know Maccabi and how they are playing, they are the hottest team right now. We need to take a rest and start to prepare for the game“, Lekavicius said after the game.
Ignas Brazdeikis had 15 points, Karolis Lukosiunas and Isaiah Taylor added 12, while Rolands Smits finished the game with 11 points.
Achile Polonara also had an all-around game with six points, eight rebounds, and six assists for a PIR of 20.
“I think it was team effort, first of all. Everybody put their hearts in it; we were full of energy today. Everybody sacrificed their body, starting from defense, and I think the defense was the key. We know that we need those wins and we have nothing to lose. That is the only way for us, to keep fighting and put all the energy we have, and that’s it. There is no question about that. We need to start every game from defense and set the tone from there. Then we have easier points on offense, then we can run and share the ball but yes, everything starts from defense for us. I felt pretty good and enjoyed to play today a lot. This energy from the crowd gave me some confidence. It was really a game to remember“, Butkevicis noted.
With 17 points and six rebounds, Jasiel Rivero led Valencia. James Webb scored 18 points, while Shannon Evans added 15.
Zalgiris took control with a 16-3 run at the end of the first half
Valencia gave a solid effort to the hosts in most of the first half, but in the last couple of minutes, Zalgiris made a massive 16-3 run and went to the break with a 49-40 lead. Even coach Alex Mumbru admitted after the game that was the breaking point of the match.
“We arrived at our limit physically, and they broke the game in the second quarter with a 16-3 run. And finally, we fought until the end, and when we tried, they scored three threes in the last second and broke the game until the end,” Mumbru said.
Upon returning to the court, Zalgiris took complete control of the game and entered the final period with a clear 74-55 advantage. The surplus of the Kaunas team soon reached 23 points, and it was all over for Mumbru’s squad in Zalgirio Arena.
“Of course, we won the game, I am happy for the effort, the wish, the focus. We are still in the playoffs race, and I think we are in a good situation. We will try to reach this. It is a double week, and we needed to find the energy and find fresh players. And before the game, we thought that Karolis Lukosiunas could be that player. We gave him a chance, and he used his chance: bravo! I am happy for this week: good energy, good teamwork, and a good effort. If we play like this, it is hard to stop us. We just need to be like this“, Zalgiris coach Kazys Maksvytis said after the game.