Zenit St Petersburg is one of the feel-good stories of this Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season. After winning eight games in its debut last season, Zenit has 11 victories in its first 16 of this one and enters this week as one of just two teams with five or fewer defeats.
It’s no secret that point guard Kevin Pangos has played an instrumental role in Zenit’s success in a bounce-back season of his own. After missing all but one game in all competitions for FC Barcelona last season, which included not playing at all in the EuroLeague, Pangos is currently the only Zenit scorer averaging double figures (11.6 ppg.), and ranks fifth in the EuroLeague in assists (6.4 apg.). What’s more, Pangos has increased his level of play in recent weeks and dramatically improved his shooting percentages.
In the first seven games of the season, Pangos averaged 9.4 points per game, making 42.3% of his two-point attempts and just 28.2% from beyond the arc while attempting 9.3 shots per game.
Things started to change for Pangos in Round 11, when Zenit visited his former team, Zalgiris Kaunas. Possibly comfortable in the familiar surroundings of Zalgirio Arena, where he played two successful seasons and led Zalgiris to the 2018 Final Four, Pangos scored 13 points that night, making 2 of 2 two-point shots and 3 of 4 triples.
Despite his field goal attempts slightly dropping to 8.7 shots on average over his last nine games, Pangos has averaged 13.3 points during that span. He has done it by sinking 64.1% of his two-point attempts and 46.2% from three-point land, improving his overall field goal accuracy by more than 21 percent.
Having confidence in his shot, Pangos has been making buckets from all ranges, including mid-range and long jumpers, to keep opposing defenses completely off balance. And even while his scoring and accuracy increased, Pangos never stopped serving his teammates.
Over the last three rounds, in which Zenit registered three wins – at home over Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, and on the road against Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv and Panathinaikos OPAP Athens – Pangos is tied for third among EuroLeague passers, with 21 assists. He has averaged 15.3 points in those victories and his assists resulted in a combined 48 points from his teammates in those games.
What has especially worked well for Pangos is his connection with big man Arturas Gudaitis. Of his 103 total assists this season, 29 have gone to Gudaitis. In the last three games, Pangos has found Gudaitis 12 times and the Zenit center has scored 27 of his 46 points in that span on assists from Pangos.
Pangos’s shooting has been on a career-high level over the last nine games and his overall impact has been tremendous for Zenit, especially in the last three rounds. Pangos will be looking to maintain that level going into this double-round week, which the team opens with a visit to FC Bayern Munich as Zenit tries to climb even closer to the very top of the standings.