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.
PASVALYS – Not even eighty minutes of basketball could put any separation between Pieno Zvaigzdes and University of Tartu, as we went to overtime in the do-or-die return leg. It was a no-nonsense affair, and after a hard-fought battle, Pasvalys rose triumphant, securing an 82-75 win and a ticket to the Finals.
Pieno Zvaigzdes worked hard to put up a tangible lead before the halftime break, as Tartu’s shots just weren’t falling. A 12-2 run allowed the Lithuanians to get away and, two quarters in, it was a solid, eight point, advantage for them.
The margin didn’t swing much in either direction in the third quarter and five minutes in, the Estonians were still down by eight. University of Tartu really couldn’t get anything to fall from downtown, making just one-of-ten, and that really halted their progress.
Nevertheless, a good end to the quarter allowed the Estonians to make a move in the final minutes and got the crowd of visiting fans excited for the final period. Before we entered the last ten minutes, it was just a 2-point margin between the two clubs.
For the next ten minutes it was a back-and-forth duel, as just a couple points stood between the two sides. Mid-way through the final quarter, Dominykas Milka nailed a pick-and-pop three-pointer to tie the game up and Tartu finally got ahead the next time they were in possession.
Tartu’s stifling defense allowed them to make it a five-point game, but it was cut to just one not even a minute later. A number of missed free-throws made it tough for the Estonians to extend their lead. Pasvalys managed to push the game to overtime, as the Estonians missed the mark on their final shot.
During the extra five minutes, there were a couple of swings, as the visitors managed to jump ahead first, but were denied by a 6-0 run. Pasvalys managed to defend from their opponents’ final possessions, as the Lithuanians went on to win 82-75.
PRIENAI – The first finalist was finally revealed after a hard-fought battle between Vytautas and Kalev/Cramo. While the visitors came into the game with a six-point advantage, that proved to be insufficient, as the Lithuanians won 88-77 and advanced to the Finals of the tournament.
It was a slow start for both squads, as nerves were definitely in play. Both sides struggled finding ways to the basket all quarter long, and it was a 4-point advantage, 13-9, for the visitors after ten minutes of play.
Kalev/Cramo brought out the big guns in the second quarter, as they raced off to a 26-13 lead not even halfway into the second period. However, Vytautas were not ready to give up on their hopes despite a combined 19-point deficit considering the first match-up. They got within six points in the game before halftime and gave themselves a fighting chance.
They continued working hard after the break and soon managed to tie up the game. And although Kalev/Cramo led for the lion‘s share of the third quarter, Tomas Delininkaitis took over, as he started splashing, nailing a couple of threes to push the Lithuanians ahead 54-51 right before the buzzer. Making things a bit worse for Vytautas was the fact that Vytenis Cizauskas had already fouled out, while Arturas Valeika was in heavy foul trouble.
Vytautas opened up the quarter with another three and that wiped away the whole first-game deficit and now put Kalev/Cramo in the chaser‘s position.
The margin had already reached 10 points, but Vitali Liutych hit a three, followed by an offensive foul from Arturas Valeika, which was also his fifth, and Kalev/Cramo was hoping to regain some ground.
The Lithuanians won the battle under the boards with multiple offensive rebounds and kept a safe advantage helped by long-range bombs with the clock running out. With 2 minutes on the clock, the Lithuanians had already jumped ahead by 17 and it seemed all done, as their defense seemed impenetrable in the second half.
However, it seemed Vytautas wasn’t ready for Kalev’s full-court press, as they wiped away 7 points in less than 30 second, followed by a three-pointer, bringing the Estonians within nine, with an opportunity to trim the deficit even more. Liutych’s three missed the mark and fouling was the last unsuccessful attempt to salvage something out of the game.
Only two games were played this week, as the number of teams keeps winding down. It would seem that there isn’t too much to review, but the first legs of both Semi-Finals were even more exciting than we could have hoped for. Let’s recap it all in the Triobet BBL Weekly Review.
MVP. Andriy Agafonov has been named the Triobet BBL Player of the Week for the second time this season, as he led his team in both scoring and rebounding. The big man recorded 24 points and 7 rebounds, as his Pieno Zvaigzdes took on University of Tartu.
TIE. The return leg in Pasvalys is looking to become a thriller if the first match is something we can judge it on. After a back-and-forth affair, Pieno Zvaigzdes finished on level terms against University of Tartu, 88-88 and we’re hoping for a game as exciting in Lithuania.
QUOTE. Tartu Head Coach Gert Kullamae: "I think it'll be good going on from this result. Whoever wins the next game is moving forward, no playing mind games, no nothing. Very straight-forward. I do still think we can definitely play better defensively in some moments. To come out with a win next time, we have to improve for sure."
NO DEFENSE. The other Semi-Final was even more high-scoring, as both teams found ways to the basket all game long. One thing for sure, Vytautas’ Head Coach Virginijus Seskus couldn’t have been happy with his interior defense – Kalev/Cramo scored 71 percent of their two-point shots, making 27 of 38 shots. Despite that, the Estonians ended up winning by a slim margin, 94-88.
RHYTHM. Tomas Delininkaitis got in a groove early on, making four three-pointers in just the first twelve minutes of the game, and was a focal point of Alar Varrak’s defensive adjustments. He pointed out that the key to the game was Erik Keedus’ defense against the sharp-shooting veteran.