Zenit St. Petersburg will get another opportunity to get into the EuroLeague Final Four after they forced a Game Five on Friday with a 74-61 win over Barcelona. Bayern Munich produced a comeback late on against Olimpia Milano, similar to the one the latter side had produced in Game One.
Zenit had guard Kevin Pangos to thank after the Canadian led the game with 22 points and made eight assists, with Alex Poythress adding 12 for the Russian side. For Barca, it was Nick Calathes who went closest with 19 points as Brendon Davies, top scorer in the previous games, could only make a point from the line all game.
Zenit started strong, taking an early ten-point lead, with Tarik Black leading the scoring before landing two quick fouls. Poythress continued Black’s work as Zenit defended well enough to contest most of Barca’s shots, holding the top seed team at just 13 points at the end of the quarter.
Barca were eight-of-23 from inside the arch by the end of the half as a low-scoring second quarter saw the sides go into the break at 36-26.
Asked about the first half run, Poythress said: “We came in focused and poised. Now we’ve got 20 more minutes, so we need to keep doing this”.
Coach Xavi Pascual added that his side were controlling the game but would “have to continue doing this, continue to control rebounds and not make turnovers”.
Distraught after an unimpressive half by Barca, coach Sarunas Jasikevicius insisted it was not a question of statistics at that point which was making the difference but the effort.
“The problem is our fighting spirit,” Jasikevicius said, “(Zenit) are playing desperate and us – I don’t know how to describe how we’re playing.”
Barca’s issues persisted after the break as Zenit went on a 5-0 run to open the second half and eventually leading by 20 points before the fourth. It was an all-around commanding performance by Zenit with Barca unable to respond as Pangos scored late to give the crowd of home fans something to cheer about as Zenit got their first-ever home playoffs win.
“We’ve got to rest up and see what we have to do better. It’s going to be a tough game, so we have got to be ready,” Pangos said post-game.
Late salvation for Bayern
Bayern Munich came back from a 13-point deficit in the second half to force a Game Five against Olimpia Milano yesterday. Bayern coach Andrea Trinchieri could not hide his satisfaction after his side believed in their chances and changed the lead very late in the fourth quarter.
“Milan played a great game and it was hard to stay in the game,” Trinchieri said post-game.
“But we had character. We found a way to come back and change the momentum.”
The game took on a very physical start with Milan in the bonus after less than five minutes. With Ettore Messina’s men in the lead early on, Bayern found themselves battling in a tight first quarter to bounce back. However, the first half ended in a 10-point lead for Milan with Malcolm Delaney (28 Pts/4 Reb) in double-digits already by then.
During the break, Bayern coach Trinchieri insisted that his side had given Milan a handout.
“We gave them 31 points in the second quarter which can change the momentum of the game”, Trinchieri said.
Messina was happy with his side’s play in the first half, emphasizing the importance of the players keeping up their defense.
The third quarter was a close encounter with Bayern reducing the deficit to seven as they struggled to defend the sharpshooting Shavon Shields who ended the game with 17 points. But a timeout in the fourth quarter with six minutes to go, brought Bayern to life as the continued to cut the margin, eventually getting to two points, before Jalen Reynold put Bayern ahead with 2.46 minutes to go.
With 8.4 seconds to go, a Shields layup was stopped by James Gist which at first was called for a shooting foul, before reviews caused the officials to overturn that decision into a charge and Bayern held on to secure the win.
This will be the first time in history to see three Game Fives in the quarter finals after Real Madrid tied their series with Anadolu Efes at 2-2 on Thursday.