Zalgiris Kaunas gave the legendary Paulius Jankunas a fitting send-off in his final EuroLeague game with a 103-98 overtime victory over Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade on Sunday night at Zalgirio Arena.
Zalgiris edges Zvezda after OT, 103-98, in Jankunas’s final game
Jankunas scored 8 points in the overtime session to spark the Lithuanian champs. He finished with a season-high 13 points plus 7 rebounds for a PIR of 17, which was also his best of the season. Edgaras Ulanovas led the winners with 18 points, Lukas Lekavicius scored 17 and dished 7 assists, Josh Nebo netted 16 points and Tyler Cavanaugh had 12, including the game-tying three-pointer on the fourth-quarter buzzer to force overtime. The game was Zalgiris’s last of the season and it finished with an 8-20 record. Ognjen Dobric paced Zvezda with a season-high 21 points, Dejan Davidovac scored 18, Stefan Markovic 14, Nikola Kalnic 12 and Aaron White 11. Zvezda dropped to 11-16 and has one more game to play.
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Lekavicius found Nebo inside for the game’s first basket and Cavanaugh also scored before Nate Wolters got the visitors on the scoreboard. However, Karolis Lukosiunas shined with an alley-oop assist to Nebo and then a three-pointer as the hosts pulled away. Lekavicius’s first basket made it 11-2 and then, with 5:02 on the clock, the crowd erupted when Jankunas made his first appearance. Zvezda finally got going with a quick 5 points from Dobric, but Nebo kept the hosts cruising. White nailed a triple for the visitors before Jankunas scored his first points of the night from the line and Arturas Milaknis’s floater made it 23-14 after 10 minutes.
Marek Blazevic scored inside to give the hosts the game’s first double-digit lead and free throws by Tai Webster stretched the margin to 13. Dobric remained effective for Zvezda with a scoop shot, however, Zalgiris remained firmly in control. Luka Mitrovic stepped up for the visitors with baskets on consecutive possessions for narrow the gap to 33-23 midway through the second quarter. Nikola Ivanovic’s three-point play further cut into the Zalgiris lead, 35-28. A triple by Ulanovas restored a double-digit Zalgiris cushion and, after a Zvezda timeout, Nebo dunked in his own miss to make it 42-28. Lukosiunas drained a three-pointer before Davidovac’s putback settled the halftime score at 45-32.
Mitrovic and Ulanovas traded shots to start the second half. Dobric drained a triple and dunked, which prompted a Zalgiris timeout. Wolters kept up the pressure with a basket to make it 47-43. Lekavicius gave the hosts some breathing room with free throws, but Davidovac’s diving save led to a Kalinic triple. Zvezda continued to surge as White and Davidovic made threes to even things at 54-54 midway through the third quarter. Lekavicius put the hosts back in front from the foul line, but a triple by Markovic gave the visitors their first lead, 58-59, and Davidovac added another before Zalgiris called timeout. Little changed as Davidovac scored inside and Kalinic’s dunk-and-one completed a 0-11 run to make it 58-67. Niels Giffey revived the hosts with a layup to end the quarter with the visitors ahead 60-67.
Nebo made a jumper and Lekavicius knocked down a three as Zalgiris trimmed the deficit to 65-70. After a layup by Giffey, the arena was rocking and Zvezda called timeout. White buries a three to make it 69-75, but Zalgiris answered twice through Ulanovas to get within 2. Cavanaugh completed the comeback and tied the score at 75-75. Dobric restored a Zvezda lead with a three only for Jankunas to match him. Markovic beat the shot clock for a three and an 80-83 lead with 2 minutes to go. Zvezda broke the Zalgiris press to get Kalinic an uncontested dunk and free throws by Dobric with 15.3 seconds left gave the visitors an 82-87 lead. However, after Milaknis buried a three, Davidovac split free throws and Cavanaugh took advantage to sink a game-tying three on the buzzer to force overtime.
Jankunas scored the first points of overtime in the post. Kalinic tied it before Jankunas split free throws to make it 91-90. He then teamed with Ulanovas for back-to-back triples to bring the fans to their feet. Stefan Lazarevic gave Zvezda hope with free throws that brought his team within 5. Jankunas countered with free throws, however a three by Markovic made it 99-95. Ulanovas came through with a put-back and 2 free throws with 5.5 seconds remaining to secure the win.