By Stefan Djordjevic / email@example.com
Marius Grigonis was set on playing aggressively on offense and it paid off for him as well as for Zalgiris Kaunas which logged an 81-69 road win over Panathinaikos OPAP.
Zalgiris improved to 6-7 after this Round 13 clash and stopped a six-game losing streak in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague while Panathinaikos now holds a 4-8 record.
Coach Martin Schiller recognized the importance of this win for his team: “If you get into the losing streak, when you get the win it’s not that you necessarily did something different. If you win a couple of games your confidence goes up, and then it goes a little bit similar with losses. So for us it was very important to see a win on the scoreboard after the game, for our mentality.”
Grigonis couldn’t find his rhythm in the last week’s game against Barcelona but this time around, he was focused on leading his squad to the win. He banked in 18 points in the first half on just one miss from the field (4-5 from deep) and finished the game with 24 points.
Nigel Hayes helped out with 14 points on 3-3 from the three-point territory while Rokas Jokubaitis, despite a very slow start with a few early turnovers, scored ten including some much-needed points for Zalgiris in crunch time.
For Panathinaikos, Nemanja Nedovic ended up being the top scorer of his team with 12 points although he struggled to find his touch from long range. Shelvin Mack drained some tough shots on his way to ten points while Georgios Papagiannis scored ten as well. The latter also grabbed 11 rebounds.
Zalgiris started the game much better and with a clear strategy on offense which worked like a charm. The ball was mainly in the hands of Grigonis who balanced very well his own scoring with a number of dishes to the big men down low, especially Joffrey Lauvergne.
PAO’s defense was basically non-existent in some situations and their effort might best be shown by how little fouls they’ve made during the first half as they never used up the bonus nor sent Zalgiris to the free-throw line.
It was also something coach Georgios Vovoras pointed out: “We basically let the other team score a lot of points, without even trying hard. And as I said before, especially as far as the EuroLeague is concerned, you need to play for the whole 40 minutes, you need to play hard in order to get the win, both in offense and defense.”
That was the main reason for Zalgiris’ 24-12 lead after the first quarter and 43-33 at the halftime break. Panathinaikos improved significantly in the second part of the game and bounced back to tie it at 50 in the third quarter.
However, the Lithuanians answered right back with a 13-0 run (63-50) and that was it for the home team which couldn’t recover until the very end.
“I’m happy about the fact the win came on the defensive end, and the second most important fact is that when Panathinaikos came out after halftime with a strong run, we could stop that run and actually played the third quarter even, at 17-17, which was very important for our mental standpoint,” coach Schiller said.