In a game that shows just how even things can expect to get in Group A, Olympiacos registered its first victory of the season at a notoriously difficult court, Drazen Petrovic Basketball Arena in Zagreg, by toping Cibona 60-64 on Wednesday. Both teams are now 1-1 in Group A, having both lost at home and won on the road. Olympiacos sealed the victory 12 seconds before the end of game as Marque Perry made a perfect pas to Elvir Ovcina, who converted a layup and the foul shot that came with for a three-poin play that broke Cibona's back. Ivan Zoroski and Dusan Vukcevic led the winners with 14 points each, eaching hitting 3 three-pointers, as many as the whole Cibona team. Missing didn't deter Cibona from shooting plenty from the arc, but only 3 of 25 those long-distance attempts by the home team fell all night. Andrej Stimac made 2 of those triples and led Cibona with 12 points, while Andrija Zizic and Josip Vrankovic added 11 each.
The first quarter did not last long enough for Cibona. Vrankovic's early triple got the hosts going, and then all the starters contributed, especially Zizic and Josip Sesar. Cibona was getting to the foul line frequently but cold not shake the guests. Vukcevic had 2 three-pointers while scoring the first 8 points for the visitors, who also got a triple from Ivica Jurkovic to tie 15-15. Cibona stayed ahead by 2 points on foul shots by substitute center Marton Bader, but also missed 4 free throws in the last 2 minutes of first quarter that soon made things more difficult. As it was, Cibona escaped with a 19-17 lead after 10 minutes.
Cibona was still up 23-19 early in the second quarter when Zoroski took off with 9 conesecutive points for Olympiacos, including his own pair of three-pointers. Suddenly, in a five-minute span, Olympiacos was off on a 10-21 run that turned the game around. Lazaros Agadakos finished the run with 4 free throws to give the Reds a 29-38 lead. It took a late triple by Stimac to give Cibona something to hope for as the first half ended 32-38.
Credit to Olympiacos for good decisions in the second half. The guests forced Cibona to take more outside shots, which were not falling, to concentrate on keeping Marko Popovic and Zizic from playing the pick-and-roll. Late in the game it seemed that Cibona, if not shooting, could win it by rebounding and heart, By the end of the third quarter, Cibona crawled back into the game, matching Olympiacos point by point until Popovic and Branimir Longing scored on back-to-back three-point plays for a new Cibona lead at 49-47. Perry erased that with one shot from the arc, however, and Vuckevic added a two-pointer to keep the guests in the clear, 49-52, after 30 minutes.
Points came slow and ties were the rule in the fourth quarter. Popovic put Cibona ahead again, but Zoroski pulled the Reds back in front. Vrankovic tied at 58-58, but Lavor Postell broke that with a two-pointer for Olympiacos. Stimac made 2 free throws, but missed a third free throw that could have put Cibona back up with under 4 minutes to play. The next 2 minutes turned into the nightmare for both teams. Neither team could buy a basket, so when Agadakos hit a free throw, Olympiacos led. It was hard to imagine that Cibona would not score again, however. Zizic rebounded a missed three-point shot, but failed to make either free throw given him with 33 seconds to go. The rest belonged to Perry and Ovcina. Cibona missed twice in the last 12 seconds, and you can guess from where - downtown - as Olympiacos left Zagreb with a valuable victory.
Sunday, October 10, 2004
Neven Berticevic, Sportske Novosti, Zagreb