The 2017/2018 Baltic Basketball League season is just about ready to tip off! Two groups of seven - 14 teams in total - will battle for the crown and represent five countries.
PASVALYS – Vytautas lifted the Triobet BBL Champions trophy after dominating throughout the entire second leg of the Finals series. They came out on top by a wide margin, winning 89-74 against the home side Pieno Zvaigzdes and more than making up for the first-leg loss.
Having won the first game by just three points, Pieno Zvaigzdes were not in a position where they could feel complacent and soon enough Tomas Delininkaitis wiped that away with a three-pointer to open up the game. A number of easy baskets followed and Vytautas found themselves up 17-2.
While the home side managed to regain some composure before the end of the quarter, the duo of Tomas Delininkaitis and Regimantas Miniotas, who combined for 18 points, had Vytautas in front 22-11.
Pasvalys struggled to open up the second quarter successfully, as the margin between the two clubs grew to 16. However, as the quarter reached its’ halfway mark, Pieno Zvaigzdes managed to turn up the intensity, bringing the game back within single digits.
Pasvalys was all fired up entering the second half, as they quickly chopped up the deficit and made it just a one possession game. Nevertheless, Vytautas responded with a 20-1 run and pulled back ahead.
A couple of threes from the home side gave them a glimmer of hope, but time was running out and the lead seemed too great to overcome. Vytautas finished out the game strong and went home victorious.
After doing half the work in Tallinn, University of Tartu finished the job at home, holding back Kalev/Cramo to just a one point win 67-68. This result was enough for Tartu to secure the third spot in the 2016/2017 Triobet BBL season.
University of Tartu had all the right cards entering the game – they already had a 12-point margin before the game and the backing of a loud home crowd to boost.
It was a battle between two equally matched sides and that was apparent from the opening minutes. While the hosts jumped ahead by a few initially, Kalev/Cramo responded with a 10-0 run and managed to reach a slim advantage after the first ten minutes.
Kalev/Cramo were up by five points early in the second quarter, but three consecutive three-pointers allowed the home side to get back ahead by four points. The two Estonian clubs went back and forth for the remainder of the game, and a close margin was clearly in Tartu’s favor.
The home team gained a five point advantage with just a couple of minutes to go and it looked all said and done, taking the first game into consideration. All Kalev/Cramo had left to fight for was victory that didn’t mean too much in the bigger picture.
University of Tartu couldn’t convert on numerous free-throw attempts and that gave Kalev/Cramo the keys to a one-point victory. Nevertheless, the Tartu players were the happier ones leaving the court.
Kalev/Cramo head coach Alar Varrak: "I can't say the series was done with the first game. I definitely believe we had our chances tonight, but even if we got the game under control for a bit, Tartu always found a way to come back. Of course I can't be happy with the result - I believed that this season, we could take the Triobet BBL gold medal, so anything below that is certainly not what I would have wanted. But tonight, the bronze went to Tartu. Congratulations to the winners!"
University of Tartu head coach Gert Kullamäe: "A classic second half in the series. We tried to keep the score low tonight, knowing well we had the +12 base, but also that if we let the opponents loose, that doesn't mean too much. I'm happy we succeeded in that category, and of course that we won the bronze. Even though it's a slight step down from last season, a medal is a medal. The only slight prick of tonight is that we didn't win the game, there were some definite issues in the last few minutes, but we won the series and that's what matters tonight."
It could be argued that both results were slightly unexpected this week, as Pieno Zvaigzdes got the better of Vytautas on the road in Prienai, while University of Tartu secured quite an easy win in Tallinn against Kalev/Cramo. Our Player of the Week is from the latter game, as Janari Joesaar was a beast in the paint for Tartu.
Joesaar excited his team‘s fans with 14 points and a whopping 16 rebounds, as his team mounted an impressive road victory in the first game of two for bronze. The forward also added 3 assists to the tally and all in just 23 minutes.
The 23-year-old‘s play has been very impressive in the play-offs so far and he’s been a vital part of any of the team’s success. Joesaar has reached averages of 13.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals, proving to be very versatile on the defensive end as well.
Thursday marks the end of the Triobet BBL season and Joesaar and University of Tartu will be hoping they can hold their end of the bargain at home and win bronze.
Tomas Delininkaitis was highlighted as the key player in the finals series for a reason. The sharp-shooting 34-year-old was ever-present and helped his team lift the Triobet BBL Champions Trophy and earned Finals MVP honors along the way.
Delininkaitis had 18 points in the trophy-clinching Game Two of the series, as put the building blocks to victory with 10 points in the opening segment. The former Lithuanian National Team player also accounted for 6 assists and 4 rebounds in the return leg.
However, if it wasn't for his heroics in the first leg, Vytautas might not even had a chance to be fighting for the trophy on Wednesday evening. In Game One, Delininkaitis dropped 7 long-range bombs, totaling 30 points and helped the Prienai side get back within just three points in the game.
The shooting guard, who's also played for top Lithuanian sides Lietuvos Rytas and Zalgiris, averaged 24.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists in the series against Pieno Zvaigzdes, quite a step up from his Play-off averages as a whole.
Delininkaitis was the team's top scorer throughout their Play-off run, nevertheless, as he put up averages of 15.9 points, 4.9 assists and 2.4 rebounds, whilst shooting at a 42.9% clip from beyond the arc (averaged 3.4/8.0 three-pointers per game).
PRIENAI – The first leg of the Triobet BBL Final turned into a thriller, as Pieno Zvaigzdes held back Vytautas 88-85 in a very exciting match-up between the two Lithuanian clubs.
Pieno Zvaigzdes could not miss in the first quarter, making 12-of-12 from inside and that allowed them jump ahead by a wide margin. Vytautas survived mostly due to Tomas Delininkaitis’ long-range prowess, as he kept bombarding his opponents, but despite his input, the visitors reached a double-digit lead before the opening quarter ended.
Delininkaitis continued his marvelous play after the break, putting up a couple more threes to trim the deficit to just 4. However, Vytautas’ pick-and-roll defense was woeful to say the least, and even 19 points in the first 15 minutes from the veteran was far from enough to put the home side in the driver’s seat.
The visitors continued attacking the paint and regained a double-digit deficit for a while. Nevertheless, the lead didn’t stand for long, as Vytautas rushed back to tie the game up right before halftime. Both teams were led by their guards, as Tomas Delininkaitis accounted for 19 of Vytautas’ points, while Derrick Low had 14 for Pasvalys.
Vytautas continued their run after the break, as they locked down the paint with stifling defense and enjoyed an eight-point advantage mid-way through the third quarter. Tomas Delininkaitis continued his impressive performance, as he added another eight points to the tally in the third quarter.
The visiting side finished the quarter on a great run and entered the final ten minutes already up by two points, 68-66.
The fourth quarter was just as close, both sides trading lead one after the other, before Pieno Zvaigzdes got out on a nice run. They jumped ahead by seven halfway through the quarter and looked very much in control.
However, Vytautas made a last-minute surge soon after and the game was once again level. The visitors put the final nails to the game, as managed to get their final baskets to fall and enjoyed an 88-85 victory.
The return match will be played in Pasvalys on the 5th of April.
It‘s finally time – the Triobet BBL Finals tip off today in a match-up between two Lithuanian clubs. Vytautas and Pieno Zvaigzdes have had plenty of chances to meet on the domestic front, so let’s take a look at what’s happened in the previous meetings and how the two teams got to the finals.
TALLINN – It was a surprisingly big victory for University of Tartu in the first game of the Bronze Final in Tallinn, as they defeated Kalev/Cramo 72-60 after a big spurt right after halftime. Having won on the road, it makes their task much easier, as they will start the return game up by 12 in their own fortress.
Most of the fans were hoping for a very level-sided affair, as it was when the two clubs faced off in the Estonian Cup final, with bookies giving Kalev/Cramo a slight edge at home.
The first quarter did not provide too much separation, as Kalev/Cramo’s lead never got any further than two possessions away. They ended up winning the quarter by three points after a last second lay-up from Tartu's Kent-Kaarel Vene.
The clubs went back and forth all throughout the first half and we were definitely hoping for a photo finish at the end of the game. Nevertheless, that was not meant to be, as University of Tartu jumped ahead right out of the halftime break with a 14-0 run, sending the home side into a knock-down.
With a double-digit lead entering the final fourth, the Tartu squad seemed to be fully in control and actually managed to build the lead up to a game-high 19 points after another big run. However, Kalev/Cramo were not ready to lay down their arms and finished the game with a couple good plays allowing them to cut into the deficit.
Despite that, it’s safe to say a 12-point margin will be very tough to overcome in a hostile environment.
Most of Tartu’s success relied on their big men. Although Dominykas Milka was the team’s top scorer with 15 points, it’s easy to point out Janari Joesaar as the key component to Tartu’s victory. He was a beast under the boards, tallying a strong double-double of 14 points and 16 rebounds. Tanel Sokk was also solid with 14 points to his name, while Janar Talts ended the game with 11.
Branko Mirkovic and Mickell Gladness were the two bright spots in an otherwise quite dull performance from Kalev/Cramo. Mirkovic scored 17 points and was the game’s top scorer, while his American colleague chipped in with 11 points and 7 rebounds. Cedric Simmons ended the game with 9 points.
It was a very disappointing night for Vitali Liutych, who set the Triobet BBL scoring record at 47 less than a month ago in the Quarterfinal against Barons kvartals. This time around, he only made one of nine shots and finished the game with just two points. In comparison, he’d averaged 24.6 points in the Playoffs prior to this game.
We're closing in on the final two weeks of basketball, as the Semi-Finals have already been taken care of. Let's take a look at what's happened throughout the past week with the 21st volume of the Triobet BBL Weekly Review.
FINALS. It‘s going to be all Lithuania in the Triobet BBL Finals, as both Vytautas and Pieno Zvaigzdes managed to hold off their Estonian opponents. The two Lithuanian clubs have faced off three times in the domestic league this season, Vytautas leading the season series 2-1. They also matched up in the Lithuanian Cup Quarterfinals, where Vytautas achieved a comfortable win.
MVP. Regimantas Miniotas put up a tremendous performance in one of the biggest games of the season for Vytautas. He scored 21 points and ripped down 9 rebounds, thus earning his first Triobet BBL Player of the Week award.
OVERTIME. The series between Pieno Zvaigzdes and University of Tartu was an instant classic, as not even eighty minutes of basketball could separate the two clubs. After finishing the first game all tied up, the second leg was decided after a thrilling 45 minutes of basketball, where the Lithuanians came out on top.
COMEBACK. It was a great comeback story for Vytautas in the other Semi-Final. Having gone down by six points in Tallinn, the Lithuanians had to step up at home. However, the start of the game wasn‘t what they expected it to be and they were already trailing by a combined score of 20 points in the second quarter. Vytautas managed to swing things their way in the second half and went on to join Pasvalys in the Finals.
BRONZE. In the battle for bronze, it‘s going to be two Estonian clubs matching up. Kalev/Cramo and University of Tartu have matched up three times in the Estonian league this year. As of now, the season series stands at 2-1 in favor of the Tallinn side. Kalev/Cramo have also taken the Estonian Cup, beating Tartu 71-66 in the Final. Time for payback?
Regimantas Miniotas broke loose when his team needed him most, putting up an outstanding performance in the do-or-die Semi-Final matchup against Kalev/Cramo. He has been named our latest Triobet BBL Player of the Week!
Miniotas was Vytautas’ highest scorer and best rebounder as well, nearly tallying a double-double with 21 points and 9 rebounds in his account. The forward, standing at 206 centimeters, made 3 three-pointers and led his team to a difficult series-clinching victory. With such a performance from the 21-year-old, the Lithuanians managed to overturn a 6-point first leg deficit and advanced to the finals with an 88-77 win.
Miniotas has played in six games in the Triobet BBL so far this season, and has been ever-present, averaging 12.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists for the league finalists, entering double-digit scoring in his five latest games. He’s done it in a very efficient way too, averaging an efficiency rating of 18.2.