Top-of-the-table Zalgiris rocks Anadolu Efes 26
Zalgiris Kaunas remained atop the EuroLeague standings by demolishing the team with the best record from last season, Anadolu Efes Istanbul, 89-73 on Thursday evening in its home opener at Zalgirio Arena. The Lithuanian champs led from tip to buzzer in improving to 4-0 on the season while dropping struggling Efes to 1-3.
Nigel Hayes led five Zalgiris scorers in double figures with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals. Marius Grigonis and Lukas Lekavicius scored 12 points apiece, Joffrey Lauvergne posted 10 points and 8 rebounds and Arturas Milaknis also scored 10 for the victors.
Bryant Dunston came up big with 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting, 4 assists and 2 blocks to lead Efes, Krunoslav Simon compiled 16 points and 6 assists and Rodrigue Beaubois added 12 in defeat.
The fans had plenty to cheer about early as Hayes and Grigonis knocked down three-pointers for a 6-2 start. Hayes remained hot with a jumper and another triple to make it 13-5 midway through the first quarter. Tibor Pleiss provided most of the Efes resistance, but Zalgiris remained in control as both teams started to turn to their second units. Lekavicius fed Rokas Jokubaitis for a fastbreak layup on the buzzer to make it 25-16 after 10 minutes.
The Efes attack found its rhythm in the first few minutes of the second quarter, but Zalgiris matched it basket for basket. Things changed when Adrien Moerman drilled back-to-back three-pointers to bring Efes within 32-31. Dunston’s second block of the night ignited a fastbreak that saw Zalgiris tie it at 35-35 on a layup by Simon. Lauvergne scored twice as the hosts regained the lead and went into halftime up 41-35.
Zalgiris opened the second half with a bang as Lauvergne threw-down an alley-oop slam and Hayes converted on his third three of the night for a double-digit lead. Efes found its footing and the teams started to trade baskets in what became a high-scoring quarter. Dunston drew the visitors within 57-53 only for Steve Vasturia to respond with a three-pointer-plus-foul. Lekavicius’s floater in transition pushed the margin back to 10 and prompted an Efes timeout. A layup by Vasturia made it 66-55 through three quarters.
Zalgiris did not let up with the lead swelling as Lekavicius set up Martinas Geben for a slam and then nailed a three. Milaknis’ layup stretched the margin to 75-58. Geben put the difference into the 20s with a layup with 4 minutes remaining. The lead peaked at 87-65 on a Grigonis triple with 3 minutes remaining as Zalgiris wrapped up a convincing victory.