St. Petersburg basketball Zenit played a perfect match against Barcelona on 30 April. The debutant of the Euroleague playoffs defeated the favorite of the tournament in the fourth match (74:61) and equalized the score in the series to three wins… The hero of the meeting was Kevin Pangos (22 points and 8 assists), who is inimitable against his former club. The fifth, decisive match for reaching the Final Four will take place in Spain on May 4… According to experts, the Russian club can gain a psychological advantage after such a confident home success.
Pangos on fire
In the third match of the series, Barcelona showed their class. Yes, basketball players of “Zenith” fought in every episode, but they did not manage to get closer to Mirotic and the company at a distance of one or two throws.… The Catalans were one step away from the Final Four and it seemed that they would see it through to the end in the fourth game in St. Petersburg. Still, Zenit has lost one of the three backbone players – Mateusz Ponitku, as well as the main center Arturas Gudaitis…
But Javier Pascual did not agree with this development of events. The Spanish coach set up his players in such a way that they showed an outstanding defense. Just think about it: in the first, second and third quarters, the star lineup of guests has never been able to score more than 13 points.
Head coach of BC “Zenith” Javier Pascual
Photo: REUTERS / Anton Vaganov
In turn, Zenit was very productive in attack. Austin Hollins played phenomenally in the first quarter, Alex Poytress in the second, Tarik Black replaced Gudaitis perfectly for the second game in a row… Billy Baron and KC Rivers played very useful, the captain of the Russian national team Vitaly Fridzon won all the balls in defense.
– Zenit played phenomenally in defense, giving a team like Barcelona to score with only 61 points in 40 minutes, – emphasized in a conversation with Izvestia, Honored Coach of Russia, Head of the Coaching Council of BC Samara Boris Sokolovsky. – My applause to the guys and head coach Pascual. There was a moment at the end when Yasikevicius was shown in close-up. I don’t know what he was thinking: about the fifth match or about a possible retirement. Everyone understands perfectly well that with such a budget, any place for Barcelona other than the first would be considered a failure.
The second half was marked by a benefit performance by Kevin Pangos. In the third quarter he scored 12 points out of 22 of his team, and in the fourth he acted so confidently in the end that Barça had no choice but to throw the white flag two minutes before the end.
– Kevin gave a fiery match, – continued Boris Sokolovsky. – It often happens that basketball players play against their former club with trebled energy. In this episode, Pangos features the MVP of the season.… An important point that I would note: when the Canadian was given a rest in the final quarter, Zenit immediately lost the initiative. Perhaps it was not worth giving the functions of point guard Billy Baron, but releasing Denis Zakharov. But these are particulars. And when Kevin returned, he put everything in its place. He scored crazy goals, making it clear who is the director in the taiga and the owner on the field.
Player of BC “Zenith” Kevin Pangos (left)
Photo: RIA Novosti / Maxim Bogodvid
The fifth match will be special for both teams. Barça really need to justify being the favorite of the season. The defeat from the debutant in the playoff series will be a slap in the face for the management, who has invested tens of millions of dollars in the team and made a choice in favor of the young Lithuanian coach. Although, for sure, it was possible to agree on the return of Pascual last summer.
For Zenit, reaching the Final Four in the first full season of the Euroleague will be considered a mega success.… And in Cologne you can try and take the main trophy of European basketball in two games. If someone had mentioned such a prospect before the start of the 2020/21 season, they would have been considered a madman.
– Most likely, Sharunas will play the fifth match with a limited rotation, – said Boris Sokolovsky… – Despite Zenit’s losses, now it seems that the opponent has a rotation problem. Yasikevicius’ team is satiated, it seems that they have lost the stable dynamics of their development. Plus, it is noticeable that Pascual and his players are a single whole. I cannot say the same about Barcelona. Misunderstanding, dissatisfaction in each other is striking. The crazy energy of the Lithuanian is now playing against him.
Alas, another Russian club could not please their fans. UNICS lost to Monaco on April 30 in the second match of the Eurocup final series (83:86). This defeat cost the wards of Dimitris Priftis a long-awaited trophy… Kazan could not hold back the two leaders of the French club’s back line. Marcos Knight and Di Bost, who are well known to Russian fans from their performances for Khimki, played two super matches. The leaders of UNICS – Jamar Smith and Isaiah Kanan – showed not the best performance.
Match of the final series of the European Basketball Cup season 2020/2021 between BC UNICS (Kazan, Russia) and BC Monaco (Monaco, Monaco)
Photo: Global Look Press / Panoramic / Keystone Press Agency
– It’s a shame for UNICS, – concluded Boris Sokolovsky. – They had a great season, knocked out Lokomotiv-Kuban and Virtus with Teodosic and Belinelli in the playoffs. Moreover, the Italians were considered favorites of the season. And it didn’t work in the final series… It seems to me that Smith, who plays great endings, should not have completed the key attack with a three-point shot. It was necessary to play smarter, to make some unexpected move. To go into the passage or to be attacked by someone else. However, the UNICS coach knows better.
Despite the defeat in the final, the Kazan club will play in the next Euroleague season…