Kalnietis learned good things come to those who wait – News

In addition to a much-needed second win of the season, completing a perfect two-round week and providing real optimism for the rest of the campaign, Zalgiris Kaunas’s impressive 86-75 victory over Fenerbahce Beko Iatanbul on Friday night contained a number of statistical points of interest.

Firsy, former Fenerbahce player Edgaras Ulanovas enjoyed his best performance of the season, scoring 18 points on 6-of-9 field goal shooting and also grabbing 5 rebounds while dishing 2 assists and making 2 steals for a game-high PIR of 21.

Ulanovas was just one of the Zalgiris players who profited from beyond the arc, as the home team made 12 three-point shots with a conversion rate of 46.2%, its most accurate long-range shooting night of the season so far. And it was a good night closer to the basket, too, with 60% of two-point shots made – again, the best managed so far this season by Zalgiris.

Another season-high for the Lithuanian champion was its total of 86 points, bettering the 82 and 76 scored in the previous two games against Real Madrid and Panathinaikos – with the fact that Zalgiris’s best three nights for scoring all came in the last three games showing that Coach Jure Zdovc’s team is very much heading in the right direction.

That’s not all. The total of 23 assists was another season-high for Zalgiris, and so was the 7 steals snared. And with so many positive statistics to savour, it’s no surprise whatsoever to learn that Zalgiris’s overall team PIR of 104 was also its best yet, easily surpassing the 90 achieved against Panathinaikos three days earlier.

Aside from all those excellent collective stats, though, perhaps the most eye-catching number was provided by veteran point guard Mantas Kalnietis, whose personal haul of 11 points and 11 assists allowed him to claim the very first double-double of his EuroLeague career.

For any player, this would be a special achievement. But that’s even more the case for a 35-year-old who was making his 185th appearance in the competition, in his 12th season.

In fact, over the last few years Kalnietis probably never expected to have the chance to record that personal double-double milestone. Before returning to Zalgiris for his third spell with the club during the summer, he had spent the last three seasons outside the EuroLeague, instead playing in the 7DAYS EuroCup with LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne and then Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar.

Now, though, he is back in Europe’s elite competition, and Friday’s performance certainly made a mark. Not only was it his first double-double, but also a new career high in assists – easily beating his previous best of 8 achieved on four separate occasions, most recently more than five years ago. And just as the icing on the cake, those 11 assists were also the joint highest number achieved by any EuroLeague player so far this season, alongside Jordan Loyd for Zenit St Petersburg against FC Bayern Munich in Round 4.

Kalnietis has waited a very long time for such a place in the spotlight. But if you ask the point guard or the thousands of fervent fans who packed Zalgirio Arena on Friday night, it was very much worth the wait.

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