Zalgiris looking for their first win in Euroleague

Two historic EuroLeague teams will clash tonight in Zalgirio Arena in Kaunas, where Zalgiris will host Panathinaikos. Usually, this game was considered a derby, but after nine rounds played in the current season, the two teams are at the bottom of the standings.

Zalgiris is still winless, the worst start in the club’s history and it’s not something that was expected. Before the season there were reports that Zalgiris managed to increase its budget and they signed some good EuroLeague veterans like Janis Strelnieks, Mantas Kalnietis or Edgaras Ulanovas. The transfer that made the biggest headlines was that of former NBA player Emmanuel Mudiay, who was expected to be their biggest offensive weapon.

However, things didn’t work out as expected and Zalgiris decided to fire coach Martin Schiller after just two rounds. Starting center Joffrey Lauvergne got injured while Mudiay was struggling to adjust to the European style of play and was released. Zalgiris chose experienced Jure Zdovc as Schiller’s replacement, while Tai Webster and Zoran Dragic were signed to bolster the backcourt. Still, Zalgiris doesn’t show any signs of improvement yet. They even lost in the Lithuanian league against their big rivals Lietuvos Rytas, and their angry fans waited for explanations from the players after the game. The roster is not necessarily bad, but there are too many role players and no one really makes the difference in offense.

On the other side, Panathinaikos is also in a mess, as they have a 2-7 record and not many hopes to climb closer to the playoffs. The Greeks won their two games against their Turkish rivals, Fenerbahce and Anadolu Efes, and especially against Efes they played great (Daryl Macon and Nemanja Nedovic couldn’t miss). They have some very talented players in the roster, but they are too inconsistent. A good example is the game against Asvel, which came just two days after PAO beat Efes by 26 points. The Greens didn’t have to travel and were supposedly in a good shape but still lost against the French team by 14 points in the OAKA.

Panathinaikos will play (again) without Nemanja Nedovic in Kaunas. I believe that the absence of the Serbian guard and the support of the home crowd makes Zalgiris favourite to win tonight and they will avoid the 10 game losing streak.

Image: EuroLeague

Imre Halasz