VTB United League: 10 straight win allows to clinch place in quarters 0

In Week 15 of the VTB United League regular season, Zalgiris (Lithuania) blew by Enisey (Russia) on their home court, 86-61. Kaunas took a big lead early and never let their opponent back in the game.

Enisey scored first, but that only fired up the home team more. A number of successful possessions, combined with stiff defense, forced Siberian coach Pavel Dergachev to call timeout only two and a half minutes into the game, 9-2. The visitors caught their breath during the break, but couldn’t find a solution on the court. Confused on offense, they didn’t help each other out on defense and left perimeter shooters wide open. Simple pick ‘n’ rolls from Kaunas, over and over again, kept their opponent on the back foot. Not surprisingly, Zalgiris scored 30 points and secured a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter, 30-19.

The visitors didn’t fold, however. Energized by substitutions, the Siberians increased their pressure, sealed off the paint and finally found some answers to the pick ‘n’ roll thanks to timely switching on defense. Along with an improved offense, Krasnoyarsk even managed to win the second quarter, 17-16, and head to halftime trailing 46-36.

After the break, play continued to be slow and grueling. Neither of the opponents tried to push the pace, emphasizing defense. The home team looked more comfortable in the half court. Dominant on the glass, Kaunas scored on most possessions. They were led by Adas Juskevicius and Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who scored 14 of the team’s 19 points.

The Siberians couldn’t do much in response. They had only trump card available, Jerry Jefferson. The American forward’s teammates made no effort to support him, either. Enisey made some noise only at the end of the quarter, when subs Viatcheslav Zaitcev and Elmedin Kikanovic came on and the team went to zone defense. Zalgiris led 65-50 heading into the fourth.

Turning Point

That was all Enisey could muster. Zalgiris slammed the door shut to open the final period. Javtokas scored and Lafayette and Kaukenas connected from downtown to make the last few minutes of the game a mere formality. Enisey gave up completely, while the home team showed off to the fans. Zalgiris extend their VTB United League winning streak to 10 games.

Thanks to two victories over Lokomotiv-Kuban, the Lithuanians have already guaranteed a top-two finish in Group A with three games to play. That guarantees Joan Plaza’s team a bye in the first round and automatic qualification for the quarterfinals.

Star of the Game

Mindaugas Kuzminskas. The young forward took advantage of Trammell Darden’s injury and absence from the lineup. Throughout the game, Mindaugas was the most active player on the court, always in the middle of the action. He may not have hit a single 3-pointer, but he was excellent in the paint. Kuzminskas led all scorers tonight, with many of his points coming after offensive rebounds.

Stat of the Game

49 vs. 24 – the home team’s total domination on the glass predetermined the outcome of this game. Most interestingly, Zalgiris even had more offensive rebounds (19) than Enisey did defensive (16). Only Elmedin Kikanovic collected more than five rebounds, while Kaunas had six players with five or more.

Top Performers

Zalgiris: Mindaugas Kuzminskas – 22 points, eight rebounds; Adas Juskevicius – 14 points, five rebounds; Ksistof Lavrinovic – 12 points, five rebounds; Rimantas Kaukenas – 12 points, five rebounds; Robertas Javtokas – 10 points, seven rebounds.

Enisey: Jerry Jefferson – 16 points; Elmedin Kikanovic – 14 points, eight rebounds; Hasan Rizvic – 10 points.