The ranks of the undefeated got a little thinner on Wednesday as Unicaja Malaga of Spain handed mighty Olympiakos of Greece its first comeuppance in Group A, an 86-79 decision that looked solid even without considering that the winners were missing a key contributor. Malaga had contributors to spare however, with Milan Gurovic putting up 26 points, including a huge three-pointer with just under 3 minutes remaining that sent Malaga through to victory. Alphonso Ford did his unusual scoring and more for Olympiakos, drilling the nets for 34 points that included two late three-pointers that drew the reds within 83-79, but Moustapha Sonko and Chuck Kornegay finished off the victory for Malaga and its 8,500 crazy fans.
A fast-paced first quarter in which the home team got caught up in a run-and-gun contest afforded Olympiakos enough easy chances to take a five-point early lead, 15-10. Ford and Forrest were getting their points. No surprise there. But the open-court atmosphere, fuelled by unexpectedly quick shooting by Malaga, made for layups by the visitors. Lucky for Malaga, Veljko Mrsic got hot with seven points down the stretch. Darren Phillips, active inside from the beginning, stole and dunked to forge a 19-all tie before two Forrest free throws left Olympiakos with a 19-21 lead.
The lead went back and fourth until a four-point play by Milan Gurovic broke Malaga ahead 32-27, tying the biggest lead by Olympiakos. The visitors responded with one-on-one moves by Iñaki De Miguel and Theodore Papaloukas, and then Forrest added two straight buckets to cut the lead to one, 36-35. Mrsic made two free throws for a 38-35 lead, then stopped Ford at the other end, setting up an interesting final possession. Before Mrsic had moved with the rebound, however, Ford slapped the ball loose and put it through, cutting the Malaga advantage to just one, 37-38, at the break.
Malaga took the initiative after halftime as Gurovic and Sonko pushed the Olympiakos defense, stole passes and rebounds, and added to the scoreboard until the hometeam had accumulated a 54-45 lead. But every time Malaga got away, Ford brought them back, scoring with poise despite one of the best defenses in Europe being directed against him. He held Olympiakos close at 57-51 and in the final minutes Stephane Risacher made a flip-in and a three-pointer to cut the lead after three quarters to 62-58.
Wednesday, October 31, 2001