“Zalgiris” visit to Spain: “One win – a good double week, two – impressive”

Having won three consecutive victories, Kaunas “Žalgiris” has settled among the first six teams at the start of the Euroleague season. Although such a result is not surprising for the club itself, the country’s basketball public and fans really did not expect such a start.

The last prey of Kazis Maksvytis’ pupils became Olimpia Milan, whose play at the start of the season does not match the strength of the composition and the expectations of Celtic before the season.

Although the meeting did not resemble top-level basketball, there were many fouls, mistakes and inaccurate shots, as has become usual for “Žalgiris”, playing in a crowded arena, winning 71:62.

“I don’t think the overall impression and level of play should matter to anyone. It is very important that “Zalgiris” beat Milan, who have a lot of problems and cannot find their game. No matter how it was achieved, it was a good win for Zalgiris, who took advantage of Olimpia’s problems, – 15 minutes Linas Kleiza said in the show PIKENROLAS. – In the second round, the match will take place in Italy, we cannot expect that Olimpia will be stuck in the second half of the table for the whole season. They have the players, they will play and they will succeed. I think that “Žalgiris” played as perfectly as they could. I don’t expect a nice game, the team is not built like that, unless three-pointers fall, but “Žalgiris” is not a good shooting team. The horse of the team is physicality and defense.”

Keenan Evans, who scored 23 points, became the main smith of the victory, who emerged as a real leader of “Zalgiris” at the start of the season, averaging 15.5 points and 4.2 assists.

“Quite a few players played well, but it all came down to Keenan Evans, who scored 23 of his 72 points. It would be about 40 points in the NBA, said L. Kleiza. – We saw that he is the engine of the attack. I think that the leader of Zalgiris attack is clear. He is more of a scorer than a ball distributor, and that works for Zalgiris because the big players don’t demand too much of the ball. Keenan is playing well and with confidence, he’s been given complete freedom, and he’s taking advantage of that freedom. He doesn’t look to create chances and collect after 10 or 15 assists, his role in Zalgiris is to score points. He does it perfectly. He can turn to the bench and realize that nothing will replace him. In another team, when three-pointers do not fall in a fast attack, you will usually go to the bench, but in “Žalgiris” he has complete freedom and feels great as a leader. That was the big question, can K.Evans be the leader? So far, the answers are positive.”

K. Evans, who moved to Žalgiris in the summer from Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he took the place of Scottie Wilbekin’s backup, collected double-digit utility points in all eight matches.

He is the ninth EuroLeague player in terms of performance, thirteenth in terms of efficiency.

The 26-year-old American, who has signed a two-year contract with the Kaunas club, is rapidly growing his shares, to which big European clubs can pay attention in the summer. If he maintains his stability, K.Evans will certainly have attention in the market, because the position of the offensive player in the Old Continent has been considered as a deficit for a number of years.

“The million dollar contract depends on whether there are openings in the majors and whether those clubs want you. There are not many clubs that can pay millions. If Keenan Evans continues to play like this, Zalgiris will reach the playoffs or be close to them, I think his next salary would be from 700 thousand euros and more”, – 15 minutes basketball agent Tadas Bulotas said in the show PIKENROLAS.

Eriko Ovčarenko/BNS photo/Moment of the match

T. Bulotas, who has over 40 clients worldwide, believes that “Žalgiris” can compete for a place in the playoffs.

“I think the goal should be the playoffs, and if you continue to beat everyone at home, you can definitely achieve this goal,” T. Bulot said. – “Zalgiris” surprises me. I thought shooting might be an issue, but they seem to be making up for it through physicality, defense and fighting and winning.”

VIDEO: PICKENROLLS: Sharo’s conflicts, the expensive guide of “Zalgiris” and his stay in Spain

Žalgiris now welcome a double Euroleague week in Spain, where they will play two matches in three days against Vitoria Baskonia (4-4) and Valencia (4-4).

These are teams of a similar character, characterized by a fast Spanish game and an abundance of three-pointers.

Baskonia, coached by Joan Penarroyo, is the first team in the EuroLeague in terms of three-pointers (average 31), while Valencia, led by Alex Mumbru, is in second place in this category (average 29.1).

“One victory would be good, but Zalgiris can win both times. We see that “Valencia” is making waves, and “Baskonia” is also a vulnerable opponent, said L. Kleiza. – “Žalgiris” must play its defensive and physical strength-based game, not allow the opponents to play freely, not allow them to run and shoot three-pointers. In my opinion, Zalgiris will have to control the game as much as possible to squeeze Baskonia into positional basketball, not to get involved in a fast game full of three-pointers, because the Basques are better at that.”

ZUMAPRESS / Scanpix photo/Markus Howard

ZUMAPRESS / Scanpix photo/Markus Howard

Baskonia have lost their last three away matches in both competitions but are a completely different beast at the Fernando Buesa Arena, having lost just once in four EuroLeague home games against Olympiakos Piraeus.

The Basques have a wide range of weapons in attack, both in the defenders and in the tall lines, which is reflected in the 116 points they rattled against Maccabi, but the main leader for Baskonia is the newcomer of the tournament, Markus Howard.

This is a budget version of Shane Larkin, 178 cm tall basketball player, not distinguished by defense or passing to teammates.

But he collects 17.1 points in 21 minutes on the floor, making even 8.1 three-pointers from long range, but making this bunch of shots at a very high 43.1 percent. accuracy.

“That’s why it’s important to control the game. Baskonia has a lot of potential in attack, when everyone gets open they can score. It will be important to take away the main weapons, said L. Kleiza. – If you want to control the game, you have to start from yourself in attack, don’t make mistakes and don’t let the opponents run. If “Žalgiris” slows down the game, plays their game, they can definitely bring home two victories. Of course, it is very difficult for Lithuanian teams to play in Spain. One win is a good double week, two is impressive.”

Scanpix / Stefanos Kyriazis / ipa-a/SIPA photo/Chris Jones

Scanpix / Stefanos Kyriazis / ipa-a/SIPA photo/Chris Jones

Although Baskonia has losses, it is still not clear whether Steven Enoch, who has not yet played this season, or Daulton Hommes, who missed two weeks due to injury, will play against Zalgiris, but Valencia have more problems and are more dependent on the performance of one player.

The towering Bojan Dubljevic and Jasiel Riviero returned to the lineup for Tuesday’s battle with Real Madrid, but lost 73-80.

“We communicate a lot with Alex when he started working as a coach at ACB. I like him both as a person and as a coach. I think that in the future he can also be the head coach of a winning Euroleague team. “I watch Valencia and communicate with Alex, but I’m not too deep because I don’t have clients in this team,” said T. Bulot about the Valencia coach.

The most interesting confrontation is the fight between Keenan Evans and Chris Jones, also caught by “Zalgiris”, the absolute leader of “Valencia”.

The player of the Spanish team recorded 15.4 points, 4.5 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals, 1.6 errors and 18.6 utility points at the start of the season.

K.Evans’ statistics are 15.5 points, 4.2 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 2.6 errors and 16.2 efficiency points.

“Keenan Evans vs. Chris Jones is a very interesting matchup. Same position, similar game profile. They are both scorers. This duel will be very interesting and can decide a lot in the match”, said L. Kleiza.

The match against Baskonia is on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m., against Valencia on Friday at 9:45 p.m.

VIDEO: PICKENROLLS: Sharo’s conflicts, the expensive guide of “Zalgiris” and his stay in Spain

The article is in Lithuanian

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