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Brose Baskets take Zalgiris Kaunas apart and chalk up their first-ever Top 16 victory

Bamberg, 01-08-2016

That was a strong, commanding and phenomenal display – a game that will go down in the annals of basketball history in Bamberg! Brose Baskets took apart the Lithuanian champions Zalgiris Kaunas to win 96:63 and finally celebrate their first victory in the Euroleague’s Top 16 after 21 previous defeats (six in 2006, fourteen in 2014 and one at Real Madrid a week ago. And what a magnificent game it was: the team of Head Coach Andrew Trinchieri completely outplayed the 1999 Euroleague champions in the Brose Arena and was 49:29 ahead at half-time.

Brose Baskets started again with Elias Harris, who had recovered from his abdominal muscle strain from the game against Sassari. From the tip-off, Trinchieri’s team impressed with uncompromising defense, with the result that the visitors had to wait four minutes to get on the scoreboard. By then, Nikos Zisis, Nicolo Melli, Darius Miller and Brad Wanamaker had put the home side 8:0 in front. Zalgiris reduced the deficit to 8:5, but the German champs remained focused and surged 24:13 ahead thanks to strong plays in attacks, in which they strung together some wonderful passes, and nine points from Nicolo Melli in the first quarter. The home side also gave an inspiring display of basketball in the second period and showed the team from the Baltics who was calling the shots. In particular, old hand Nikos Zisis turned on the heat with seven out of his 18 points to enable Brose Baskets to go in at half-time with a solid 49:29 lead.

After the break, however, the Lithuanian side showed why it had qualified for the Top 16. It altered its defensive tactics, throwing Trinchieri’s team off its stride, and made quick points at the other end. Trailing by 51:29 shortly after the break, the visitors from Lithuania cut the gap to 54:40 in the space of four minutes, forcing Trinchieri to call a timeout to sharpen his players’ concentration. The upshot: an easy mid-range bucket by Darius Miller (13 points), a block by Daniel Theis in defense, then an amazing pass by Brad Wanamaker to Daniel Theis (10 points), who finished the move with a ripping slam-dunk to make it 62:45. And in the final period, the Latvian player Janis Strelnieks stepped up the pace in the duel with his opposite numbers from the Baltic: a clinical bucket from beyond the arc (74:52) and a successful three despite his being fouled to capture four points on an attack made it 85:57 – the Brose Arena erupted with jubilation for the top scorer (19 points). The strong youngster Patrick Heckmann used the last two minutes to add seven out of his 11 points and stretch the lead to 33 (96:63).

Andrea Trinchieri commented: “The fans gave us standing ovations in the final two minutes. It was our club’s first-ever win in the Top 16. The legacy of this team is greater than the result on the scoreboard. I’m very proud of my team. It does nothing to change the fact that the group is a tough one, but the small flame of hope we kindled today will continue to burn.”

Brose Baskets now face what is probably one of their most difficult away games in the Euroleague, when they travel to Olympiacos Piraeus, the 2012 and 2013 Euroleague champions, next Friday, January 15, 2016. The encounter tips off at 8:45 p.m.

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