BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Mindaugas Kuzminskas has had a breakthrough season for Zalgiris Kaunas this season|
Zalgiris Kaunas conquered their third consecutive Lithuanian League (LKL) title on Tuesday in dominant fashion, by completing a clean sweep of arch-rivals Lietuvos Rytas in the final series.
Joan Plaza's team prevailed 83-65 on the road over their Vilnius rivals in Game 4 and now turn their attention to their VTB United League quarter-final play-off series with Nizhny Novgorod.
Zalgiris trailed their hosts 32-29 at the half-time interval but as the tempo of the game opened up in the third quarter they took a 55-51 lead at the third buzzer.
The Kaunas side dealt the decisive blow on their Vilnius rivals by going on an 11-0 run that gave them a 74-55 advantage and effectively ended the title race with approximately three minutes left in the encounter.
Guard Oliver Lafayette led the way for the champions in Game 4 with 18 points and seven assists, while young Lithuanian international Mindaugas Kuzminskas finished with 16 points and six boards and veteran Rimantas Kaukenas added 15 points.
The champions won the two games of the final series they played at home by an average margin of 21 points (88-73 and 72-45) and only Game 2, the first of the series in Vilnius, ended with a single-digit point differential, 77-71.
Zalgiris have reached 15 titles since LKL's inaugural season in 1993, to Lietuvos Rytas's five championships.
Coach Plaza meanwhile has now conquered domestic championship titles with two of Europe's most emblematic basketball clubs, since he had also led Real Madrid to the 2006/07 ACB crown in his native Spain.