Congratulations go out tonight to Lietuvos Rytas, who decisively won the Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL) championship over arch-rival Žalgiris Kaunas, 80-71.
Thus ends a very bizarre LKL playoffs and, for Žalgiris Kaunas, a revolving door of a season at coach with the final four games seeing the team essentially sort-of led by some combination of Marcus Brown and/or Dainius Šalenga. Call the collective coach Marcušalenga.
In any case, L.Rytas simply brought too much Milko Bjelica, too much Martynas Gecevicius and for a while too much Kenan Bajramovic. BiE’s ultra-brief you-are-there recap goes as the following.
The fearless prediction for this games had Lietuvos Rytas by six. (Really: The proof is here.)
The first quarter was characterized by much back-and-forth swapping early on of missed shots, later in the quarter more successfully. Bajramovic took advantage of the mismatch given him when covered by Mario Delas. Delas earned two consecutive fouls halfway through the first and he remained quiet throughout the night (just two points on 1-of-2 shooting and three rebounds).
At the end of one, it was Žalgiris 16-15.
Travis Watson, seemingly shaking off a couple of average-to-bad games, looked good through one and into the second quarter; unfortunately he’d near self-destruct before it was over.
Meanwhile, after Žalgiris threatens to seriously pull away with a nice spurt to go up 25-17, Bjelica hit back-to-back jumpers. Bjelica would later give L.Rytas a go-ahead three in this quarter.
At half, it was L. Rytas 35, Žalgiris 34. Watson had eight points and six boards; Tadas Klimavicius was second-high for the Greens with seven points. For L. Rytas, it was Bajramovic totally taking advantage of the coverage with 11 points and Bjelica with 10. Gecevicius chipped in six points, two boards, three assists and was doing well directing the red-and-black show. Only five L.Rytas players scored in the first half, and Aron Baynes managed just two points.
In the third, it was simply L.Rytas early and often. After Žalgiris’ last gasp, it was 47-40 with exactly 3.00 left in the quarter when Gecevicius hit a three in transition following Vidas Ginevicius’ very first three points of the game.
Bajramovic contributed a big block for to kill another Žalgiris threat; some nifty perimeter passing by L.Rytas resulted in another three to make it 52-43; Delas produced another bad foul, his fourth, on Bjelica driving the lane to make it 54-43 after the free throws with 1.00 left to play in the third. And inevitability settled in.
After three, Bjelica was 7-of-10 from the floor for 20 points for L.Rytas.
In the fourth, with the huge hole dug, Žalgiris was showing signs of, well, the anarchy of a coachless team. As opposed to game four, in which a stirring moment was captured by cameras in Brown enthusiastically drawing up the play he knew would work, the characteristic moment here was not to be so. Instead, Brown futilely tried to direct from the sidelines as an evermore frustrated Watson (as in game five) picked up his fourth foul midway through the final quarter at L.Rytas up 61-48.
With 4.20, Watson was sitting as the lead stubbornly remained in double digits; L.Rytas cruised for the final four minutes of play as Žalgiris went completely dead cold – as a team, the Greens ended up shooting 33.3% – 20-of-60 – in overall shooting. Despite utterly destroying L.Rytas on the boards, 38-26, and nearly even free-throw attempts, the outcome wasn’t in doubt throughout the second half.
Lietuvos Rytas may now enjoy their 2009-10 LKL title and a prospective place in Euroleague 2010-11 play.
For L.Rytas, Bjelica ended up with a huge 24-point game on 8-of-12 overall shooting plus 6-of-7 from the line to go with six rebounds. Bajramovic and Gecevicius each contributed 15 points; Bajramovic added five rebounds, Gecevicius four assists.
Heroes on the Žalgiris side – aside from the team itself and the fans for dealing with all the weirdness going on in the, um, front office over there – include Aleksandar Capin, who put in 15 off the bench and Mantas Kalnietis who accounted for 13 points and five rebounds.
Most disappointing for Coach Brown was probably Marcus Brown, who was a woeful 0-for-5 from the floor and who managed six points on free throws
And now, the proverbial fat lady sings.
Or maybe that should be the “fat cat,” as Lithuanian media doubtlessly strenuously await Vladimir Romanov’s thoughts on the matter of his coachless team and their prospects for 2010-11…