In the long awaited season showdown it turned out Rytas was the no-show and Žalgiris walks away with all the season’s honours.
After their sixth loss to Žalgiris for the year, and ninth in a row, the team of green is now caring for all three domestic trophies as well as the regional BBL silverware.
Many experts had predicted an even series, with Rytas coming into the finals battle-hardened after encouraging campaigns in Eurocup and the VTB League, while Žalgiris was trying to forget a lamentable Euroleague campaign where they were 4 – 12 on the season and 0 – 6 in the Top 16.
Adding to Žalgiris’ woes was the double loss of Weems and Collins for the LKL finals.
The question mark on Rytas was fatigue, with a lot of games crammed into a season that was shortened on the request of National Coach Kemzūra to provide more time for national players to prepare for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela 2 – 8 July.
The unexpected win for Rytas against Khimki in the VTB United League meant another two games were scheduled in the middle of the LKL finals against Moscow CSKA and Lokomotiv. With an already tired squad, where a number of players were reported to be on the edge of serious injury, another two tough encounters was the last thing the team medical staff wanted.
Still, apart from all the unknowns of VTB and Eurocup, the one certainty of basketball over the last decade in Lithuania is Rytas v Žalgiris in the finals of LKL.
The added bonus of national bragging rights is that the winner of this tittle earns a spot in Euroleague. Žalgiris has a guaranteed spot, so will play the more prestigious Euroleague whether they win or lose, but Rytas has no such contract and needs to earn its right to the big league every season.
Žalgiris won the first of the best of five series at home comfortably. Excuses aside, there was then the home game for Rytas, where the faithful expected parity to be attained with the team having time to rest and rejuvenate for the return encounter.
In short, Rytas lost the next two games and Žalgiris are clear winners 3 – 0. There were a number of different reasons over the three games of why Žalgiris were victorious, whether it was the pick-and-roll, defence or offensive rebounds, but in the end, whenever Rytas got close, Žalgiris had the answers.
In fact Rytas had their chances in every game, but whenever they got close Žalgiris was able to regroup and translate initiative and advantage onto the scoreboard.
Delininkaitis hit form, and Javtokas proved solid inside. Popovic was deadly and Kalnietis consistent as team defence and commitment proved the real winner of the series.
For Rytas Seibutis was the most consistent performer and Stepas tried as hard as ever. Valančiūnas was held, Rice was active but really had one good game, while Rasic didn’t find his range, and Roberts showed little of the fight that had characterised his early season efforts.
Back to Home Page