As you may know, Žalgiris was given a big challenge during the weekend here in Lithuania. In Vilnius, but not against Lietuvos Rytas. The club from Kaunas ended on top, but by just two points and had to come from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter. There might have been a couple reasons for a terrible performance by the Euroleague club.
The staff, the players and all the rest were freezing their butts off in what cannot be called a proper arena, more like a gym, I’d say. Žalgiris assistant coach Maskoliūnas was rubbing his hands here and there, but finally decided to put them on a warm (?) radiator. Most of the spectators wore pretty thick sweaters or didn’t take off their jackets at all.
It has been pretty cold lately in Vilnius dropping well over -20° C at night, but a game in Ekinsta (that’s how the venue is called) had already been postponed earlier in the season due to a low temperature inside the gym. Can’t actually remember exactly how cold it was, but if my memory isn’t fooling with me Perlas decided not to play with the arctic conditions of 12° C inside from the required 15° C. And all of this happened way before the freeze of the past days.
I have some notes from the game that I’d like to share with you. So let’s kick off from the very start by saying that Žalgiris played without Marcus Brown, Dainius Šalenga, Mirza Begič and the injured Travis Watson.
Ovidijus Varanauskas, who’ll be 19 next month, scored eight points and dished out four assists, but though his stats are not that impressive, the young lad looks pretty confident and comfortable – has a decent drive and a nice, fluid handling of the ball. Varanauskas declined a long-term contract with Lietuvos Rytas this summer and decided to go with Sakalai Vilnius, but I’d guess that there’s a bigger chance of him being picked up by Rytas (and possibly sent to Perlas or perhaps Šiauliai, who play in Europe as well) than Žalgiris. Why? Let me name a few reasons – Šarūnas Vasiliauskas, Adas Juškevičius, Žygimantas Janavičius, Mantas Kadzevičius, Vytenis Čižauskas, Dovydas Redikas… Each and every of these young guards have a contract with the LKL runners-up from last year.
Moving on, Žalgiris’ new playmaker Aleksandar Čapin reminds me a little of the club’s former guard Marko Popovič – from a similar size and build of the players to the unexpected shots after coming of screens and the ability in itself to strike it from downtown. However, the Slovenian hasn’t been playing well and the game against Sakalai wasn’t very good as well. I’m still waiting for Čapin to impress me, but coach Butautas has given him a lot of playing time, even in Čapin’s debut against Fenerbahce, which was a very important game for Žalgiris. This baffles me a lot, you can give a new player big minutes if he plays good, but he wasn’t, he truly wasn’t…
I just wanted to write this: ”Žalgiris’ 23-year-old shooter Artūras Milaknis gets run past by a… what is it now… 36-year-old veteran Virginijus Sirvydis.” I’m starting to notice that he’s just awful on defense. Oh well, that’s his problems.
Super Mario? Not Super Mario, but simply Mario. Mario Delaš, that is. Can’t play good one on one, doesn’t set good screens and doesn’t seem to handle the pick’n’roll well as well. People I have talked with, have underlined his aggressiveness (in a good sense) and the fighting spirit… I guess you have to go to these qualities in an argument, when you can’t say anything good about his basketball. Am I wrong?
Martynas Pocius has become my favorite player from Žalgiris squad from the very beginning of the season, but his game is usually in a spin on a sinusoid. The player from Duke has probably learned a shortcut between the highs and the lows and, from what I see, he has been using it often. After a truly amazing, spectacular… (put five synonyms of your choice here)… and wonderfully breathtaking show of his skills in the VTB United League’s Final Four, the chap from Vilnius had a poor first quarter, with insensible decisions and wild threes at the beginning of possessions. I want to point out that he got over it and finished the game strong.
Next! Tadas Klimavičius had another good performance with half of the front line missing, but playing against a two-meter 36-year-old veteran Rolandas Matulis and allowing him to score 20 and grab an additional 10 rebounds isn’t that good-looking.
And some words of warning to the Asseco Prokom and all the rest of Žalgiris’ Top 16 group – be careful going past Žalgiris’ big-men screens. Rolanas Jarutis has already lost a couple of teeth earlier this season and I’ve noticed that a foul should have been called every time a Žalgiris player sets a screen – sticking their bum out and playing with unnecessary roughness again and again in the game against Sakalai. Good for everyone that the pro in this business Travis Watson is out with an injury… But we’ll wish the best of luck to him too.
Take care, hope you enjoyed reading!