Three quarters not enough vs Fenerbahce 19
Fenerbahce Istanbul became the third team to qualify to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague playoffs by downing Zalgiris Kaunas 78-85 in front of over 15,200 fans at Zalgirio Arena on Friday.
A 5-17 takeover run in the fourth quarter proved decisive as Fenerbahce improved to 18-7 in the standings and made sure to reach the playoffs on coaching legend Zeljko Obradovic’s 58th birthday. Zalgiris dropped to 15-10 and is now tied on victories with Real Madrid for fourth place.
Luigi Datome led the winners with 16 points. Kostas Sloukas added 15, Jan Vesely 13, Nikola Kalinic 12 and Jason Thompson 11 for Fenerbahce.
Paulius Jankunas led Zalgiris with 15 points. Kevin Pangos added 14, Vasilije Micic 11 and Brandon Davies 10 for the hosts.
Melli got Fenerbahce going with free throws while Davies followed a layup with a dunk for a 4-2 Zalgiris lead. Kalinic struck from downtown and Sloukas hit foul shots but six different players scored in a 12-0 run that Antanas Kavaliauskas capped with free throws to make it a double-digit game, 18-7. Datome hit a corner triple and Wanamaker followed Vesely’s foul shots with a bomb from downtown to bring Fenerbahce within 20-15. Micic fed White for a dunk and added a jumper but a buzzer-beating layup by Marko Guduric fixed the score at 24-17 after 10 minutes.
Vesely took over with a three-point play early in the second quarter before Arturas Milaknis and Micic each hit a triple in an 8-0 run that boosted Zalgiris’s lead to 32-20. Kalinic tried to change things with a jumper and a layup, then Datome followed Vesely’s dunk with a three-pointer, but White and an outstanding Micic restored a 40-29 Zalgiris lead. Free throws by Vesely kept the guests within 40-31 at halftime.
Melli had a dunk and a three-pointer in a 0-7 run that brought Fenerbahce within 41-38 soon after the break. Milaknis nailed a triple and Jankunas added a layup-plus-foul but Thompson and Guduric kept the guests within 49-46. Pangos hit a floater and Jankunas made foul shots but Wanamaker and Thompson made it a one-point game, 53-52. White stepped up to hit 3 of 4 free throws and detonate a big slam to give Zalgiris a 58-52 margin after 30 minutes.
Pangos took over with a reverse layup early in the fourth quarter but Sloukas and Thompson combined for all points in a 0-8 run that tied the game, 60-60. Pangos followed a driving layup with a triple before James Nunnally found his first points while Kalinic hit a jumper and fed Vesely for a huge dunk that completed Fenerbahce’s comeback, 65-66, with more than 4 minutes left. Sloukas hit free throws and added a three-pointer, then Kalinic also struck from downtown and Datome hit a jumper to seal the outcome, 71-79, with a minute left.
Both teams return to EuroLeague action next week as Zalgiris visits Baskonia Vitoria on Thursday while Fenerbahce hosts CSKA Moscow on Friday in a rematch of the 2016 final.