Lietkbalis rallies to win 59-70 on Slask's court
Lietkabelis Panevezys was the last Group A team to strike first in Round 1 as it ambushed Slask Wroclaw in Poland 59-70 on Wednesday in a game that was close until the final minutes. It was 55-57 with under 4 minutes remaining before Lietkabelis forced its will on the outcome with a 4-13 closing run triggered by banked-in three-pointer from veteran Gediminas Orelik, who finished with 11 points. Panagiotis Kalaitzakis was the top scorer for the winners, with 12 points, while Kristupas Zemaitis and Vytenis Lipkevicius added 10 each. Slask got 19 points from Cyril Langevine, 14 from Aleksander Dziewa and 11 from Ivan Ramljak.
Orelik opened the scoring from deep for the visitors but soon Langevine and Ramljak, the latter from the corner, had Slask ahead 5-3. Tadas Vaiciunas and Orelik kept the threes falling as Lietkabelis went up 7-9, but Michal Gabinski answered in kind for an 11-11 tie. Djordje Gagic broke it with a nifty reverse to which he and Lipkevicius added free throws at 11-16. Zemaitis finished the quarter as it had started, from downtown, with Lietkabelis ahead 14-19.
Cody Justice hit first for Slask in the second quarter, but a backdoor layup by Zemaitis preceded a steal-and-dunk combo by Gabrielius Maldunas to suddenly make it 16-23. Orelik's jumper was answered by Ramljak's pair of layups at 21-25. After Panagiotis Kalaitzakis made it 21-29 for the visitors, inside buckets by Dziewa and Langevine kept Slask within 27-31. Nikola Radicevic and Ramljak traded blows before Kalaitzakis drilled a second-chance triple. Langevine steadied Slask as the half arrived with a 32-36 scoreboard.
Jakub Karolak stole for a layup and split free throws to open the second half by bringing Slask within 35-36. Kalaitzakis helped Lietkabelis with a triple but Lukasz Kolenda helped himself to the same and Dziewa fed Ramljak back-door for Slask's second lead of the night, 42-39. Langevine kept it going for a 9-0 run that Zemaitis stopped with a banked shot. But Dziewa answered inside and outside to make it 49-43 for the hosts. Zemaitis hit from deep and Maldunas finished a break that Kalaitzakis copied. So, just as suddenly, Lietkabelis jumped back in front, 49-50, after 30 minutes.
Kalaitzakis kept it going with a jumper and Karolis Giedraitis hit another at 49-54 before Langevine blasted a dunk that got the Slask crowd riled up. The scoring stalled at 51-54 until Gagic dropped a jump-hook. Dziewa dunked spectacularly on an assist from Langevine, but Lietkabelis stayed a step ahead, 53-57, with 4 minutes left. Justice got Slask closer but Orelik rose up and banked in a triple the provided the separation the visitors needed. Radicevic stole and fed Maldunas then converted his own three-point play as the game's first double-digit lead, 55-65, ensured the victory would go back to Lithuania.
Pivotal performer: Kalaitzakis made feisty debut
Making his EuroCup debut, 21-year-old swingman Panagiotis Kalaitzakis put his fingerprints all over the Lietkabelis victory. His 2 steals early set the tone and he with a team-high 12 points while pulling down 6 rebounds and dishing 2 assists for a performance index rating of 14, the same as two fo his teammates. Panagiotis is the twin brother of Georgios Kalaitzakis, who joined him in moving to Lithuania two years ago to play for Nevezis together. Georgios came back and saw action in 14 EuroLeague games last season for Panathinaikos OPAP Athens and he now is with the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.
Standout stat: Gagic, Lietkabelis ruled the rebounds
It took a late surge of shooting from long distance and the foul line to make a double-digit outcome of a close game. But along the way, Lietkabelis held control for all but a few minutes due to superior rebounding, especially on the offensive end. Lietkabelis was halfway to its club record of 20 offensive rebounds at halftime. Those 11 offensive rebounds gave the visitors 36 field goal tries to just 26 for Slask, so despite worse shooting percentages until then and fewer trips to the foul line, Lietkabelis led 32-36.
Center Djordje Gagic had 5 of those offensive boards at halftime and added another early in the second half to tie the Lietkabelis record of 6. Oddly enough, those were all his rebounds until then. His teammates were doing enough on the defensive glass, however, that Lietkabelis finished with a 29-38 edge overall. Still, the fact that the winners made 68 field goal attempts as compared to just 51 for Slask was the story of the game. Lietkabelis could not get to its previous record of 20, but its 16 offensive rebounds were still third best in the team's 35 EuroCup games to date.
Wednesday, October 20, 2021