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Landale and Motum in sparkling EuroLeague form
It was a big week of EuroLeague action, with all teams playing two games, and for Australia, Jock Landale and Brock Motum were both in sparkling offensive form.
Zalgiris Kaunas opened the week with an impressive 76-70 road victory against Red Star Belgrade, Landale's first time in returning to play in Belgrade. With neither team gaining the ascendancy across the first half, it was an 11-0 run late in the third that paved the way for Zalgiris' to take the lead and go on to win.
A Landale three-point play with 2:42 to play put Zalgiris up by 8 points and in control. While Landale missed both free throws on the next offensive possession, Zalgiris was able to hold on for the 6 point win in the last minute. The Aussie big man finished with 9 points (4-9 FG), 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal in 29 minutes, and was enthused to get the win against his former cross-town rival from when he played with Partizan Belgrade last season.
Moving onto Greece with their 6th win of the season, Olympiacos awaited. Zalgiris jumped out the of the blocks early, establishing an 11 point first quarter lead. Landale hit one of two from the free throw line for an 8 point lead, however the home side would then make a run, closing the margin to just 3 points at half time.
Little separated either team throughout the third in a see-sawing battle. Olympiacos would finish with the last 5 points on the term to eke out a 5 point lead at the last break. That margin would be extended to 8 points by the home side early in the final term, forcing Zalgiris onto the back foot.
Landale stepped up as Zalgiris made one final challenge in an attempt to steal the win. The Melburnian drained back-to-back three's in the final 2:22 to enable his side to get within reach of an upset with the deficit narrowed to 5. It as then narrowed to just 3 points by Nigel Hayes with 17 seconds left, and then reduced to just 2 on the back of a Hayes triple with 7 seconds remaining. Zalgiris then forced a turnover that gave them a potential last gasp chance, but an errant pass under pressure saw the home side hold on for a thrilling 2 point win.
The former Saint Mary's star was one of six Zalgiris players to score in double figures, adding 11 points on 4 of 7 shooting (2-4 3PT) with 7 rebounds, 2 assists and zero turnovers in 22 minutes. Zalgiris are now tied for last place with a 6-13 record and will look to lift themselves up the standing next week when they host ALBA Berlin.
It capped a big week for Landale who was also named to the three-point shooting contest as the league's best long-distance marksman. Landale made 11 of 23 (47.8%) shots from behind the arc, to qualify for the event to be held on 16 February before the King Mindaugas Cup final.
Valencia enjoyed a big week in EuroLeague, registering two consecutive wins on a Russian road trip to 10-10 on the season. Importantly for Brock Motum, the Russian expedition saw him work his way back into the rotation, with two strong performances.
Opening the week with a 84-75 win against Khimki Moscow, Valencia managed to withstand the home side's challenge down the stretch, holding them scoreless across the final 3:36 to register an important 9 point win.
Having been provided little opportunity at Valencia of late, Motum was injected into the game in the second term with immediate effect. The 6'10 veteran scored down low before draining a triple to help give his team a lead for the first time in the game. While the Queenslander saw no action in the third, he return to provide a spark in the fourth, tying the game up at 67-all with a visit to the charity stripe. He would check out with 4:43 left in the game with 7 points, 2 rebounds and 2 steals against his name, with Valencia trailing by just two. His team would finish the game off with an 13-2 run to steal the road win.
In the second EuroLeague game of the week against Zenit St Petersburg, Motum would again be provided with an opportunity to contribute and he made sure to grab it with both hands as his side registered an 86-81 win. Starting the second term, Motum drained a triple with his first touch to extend Valencia's lead to 7 points. He would score again late in the term to ensure Valencia held a 4 point lead at the main break.
Motum was recalled to action with just 1:46 to play in the third, and made a huge impact. He handed off an assist before draining his second triple of the night. He then scored just before three-quarter time and was fouled in doing so. He duly converted the three-point play to extend the margin 12 points at the final break. He would go on to play the first half of the final term before checking out with 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting with 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 15 minutes.
The outing capped a good week for Valencia and Motum who moved into the top 8 in the EuroLeague standings, with the Australian appearing to slowly work his way back into favour ahead of another trip to Russia next week when they take on CSKA Moscow.