Olympiacos rallies past Efes 86-75 to storm into playoffs!
In an epic battle that neither team led by more than 6 points through the first 35 minutes, Olympiacos Piraeus owned the finish to take an 86-75 victory over visiting Anadolu Efes Istanbul and punch its ticket to the playoffs on Thursday. Despite playing without three injured regulars - Vassilis Spanoulis, Kostas Sloukas and Brent Petway - Olympiacos raised its record to 9-3 in Top 16 Group F and assured its place in the next round. Efes dropped to 5-7 but stayed tied for the fourth and final playoff spot. The game was marked by Dusan Ivkovic coaching from the Peace and Friendship Stadium visiting bench in a Euroleague game for the first time since he and Olympiacos won their second title together in 2012. His Efes team put up a battle that featured 10 lead changes and 10 ties during the first three-and-a-half quarters as Stratos Perperoglou matched his career high with 5 three-pointers against his former team. But Olympiacos found a spark in Ioannis Papapetrou, who had played just 12 minutes in two games this season before Thursday. His 10 points in 5 minutes to start the final quarter rallied the Reds offense to score 33 points in that quarter on the way to victory. Oliver Lafayette led the winenrs with 17 points, while Georgios Printezis scored 14 and pulled 12 rebounds, matching his career high on the boards. Papapetrou added 12 points, Othello Hunter and Vangelis Mantzaris 10 each. Perperoglou led Efes with 23, while Nenad Krstic added 12 and Dario Saric 10 plus 10 rebounds.
First quarter: Late push lifts Reds
Defenses rules for the first few possessions until Tremmel Darden hit an open three-pointer in transition to get the scoreboard rolling. Perperoglou soon popped a jumper for Efes, but Olympiacos got another three-ball from Mantzaris to make it 6-2. Saric bulled his way in for one basket then repeated the process and added a free throw for 5 consecutive points and his team's first lead, 6-7. A spin and layup got a brief lead back for Olympiacos, but only until Matt Janning was left open for the first three-pointer by Efes at 8-10. After a timeout, the Olympiacos offense repeated its mistake, leaving Janning free in the same corner for another triple. Bryant Dunston answered with a layup, but after Saric hit a free throw, Efes got a steal and fastbreak from Perperoglou to make it 10-16. Matt Lojeski and Hunter also scored inside for Olympiacos to set up a big finish that saw Printezis blast a go-ahead triple from the corner for a 17-16 lead after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Perperoglou leads Efes to tie
Free throws by Milko Bjelica took the lead back for Efes. Krstic, back from injury, dropped a hook of his own and assisted Bjelica on another to put the visitors up 17-22, forcing an Olympiacos timeout. Dimitris Katsivelis entered to spark the hosts with a layup and a steal that led to another on the fastbreak by Lafayette. After Bjelica finished an Efes fastbreak, Hunter slammed a lob. Birkan Batuk hit a three-pointer for the visitors that Lafayette answered with a two-point jumper, but Efes stayed ahead 25-27. Papapetrou, playing in just his third game this season, spun for a game-tying layup, which set up Lafayette for the go-ahead drop shot from the lane. Hunter ripped and returned an offensive rebound for a 31-28 Olympiacos lead. Perperoglou got 2 points back at the foul line and soon hit a step-back jumper to re-teak the lead, 32-33, for Efes. Krstic's finger roll added to the lead before Printezis broke loose for a sharp one-handed slam. With a timeout to set up the quarter's final play, Olympiacos found Dunston, who hit a free throw after 3 previous misses to forge a 35-35 tie at halftime.
Third quarter: Heurtel keeps Efes ahead
Perperoglou broke the tie with an open three-pointer right after the break, but at the other end, his former teammate Printezis matched him to make it 38-38. Efes did a good job of finding Krstic, who earned 4 perfect free throws before Dunston finished a pick-and-roll layup at 40-42. Mantzaris drove the lane to tie the score briefly, and after Krstic scored inside, Hunter did the same at 44-44. The game's top scorer so far, Perperoglou, found another three-pointer, his third. Mantzaris again drove inside, but Thomas Heurtel copied his teammate from the arc, giving Efes a 46-50 lead. Krstic got called for an unsportsmanlike foul, giving Lafayette a free throw that he added to with a driving layup to make it 49-50. Batuk then stepped up with a three-pointer for Efes. Hunter returned with a turnaround hook before Lojeski fed Printezis on the break for another tie, 53-53. Krstic made 1 of 2 free throws to restore Efes's lead, then Heurtel was ice-cold hitting a fastbreak three-pointer to make it 53-57 for Efes after 30 minutes.
Fourth quarter: Papapetrou leads take-over run
Papapetrou woke up the crowd with a triple to open the final quarter. After he forced a turnover on Efes, Papapetrou got to the foul line to tie it up, 57-57. And when his second free throw missed, an offensive rebound let Lafayette drive for the first Olympiacos lead of the second half, 59-58. Only seconds later, however, Perperoglou drilled another three-pointer, after which Bjelica's free throws upped the Efes lead to 59-62. Papapetrou again came to the rescue for Olympiacos with a back-down basket and free throw for a new tie, 62-62. Mantzaris found Dunston for a go-ahead basket, but Saric returned and hit free throws to make it 64-64. Lafayette stepped back and drilled a three-pointer. Saric made 2 more free throws, but then Papapetrou stopped and popped a triple to make it 70-66 with 5 minutes left. Lafayette then drilled his own shot from the arc to lift the crowd to its feet. After an Efes timeout, Batuk dialled up a restorative three-pointer for the guests, but Lafayette fed Dunston for a dunk and then Printezis hit his patented one-hander from the lane to make it 77-69. Perperoglou tried to revive Efes with a jumper, but Lojeski appeared out of nowhere with a triple for a nine-point lead, 80-71. A Krstic free throw and yet another triple from Perperoglou made it 80-75, but Printezis snuffed it out with a huge shot from the arc going into the final minute. When Lojeski scored on the break, it marked the first double-digit lead of the game, 86-75, and meant an early qualification to the playoffs for Olympiacos and their delighted home crowd.
Thursday, March 26, 2015