Olympiacos had to wait until the final second of the final game to complete its Group C rally, but finally managed to make it to the Top 16 by beating Alba 70-71 in Berlin on Wednesday night. Dalibor Bagaric nailed 2 crucial free throws with 0.8 seconds to go to help the Reds seal a ticket to the next round which probably seemed impossible back when they started the season 0-5. But Olympiacos finished fifth in Group C with a 7-7 record, while Alba fell to 3-12 to finish seventh. Panagiotis Liadelis led the winners with 16 points while Giorgos Diamantopoulos added 15. Bagaric posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Goran Jurak added 10 points for Olympiacos. DeJuan Collins led all scorers with 21 points for Alba. Jovo Stanojevic added 15 and 9 rebounds while Vladimir Petrovic had 11 and 7 rebounds off the bench for the hosts.
In a nervous start with many missed shots on both sides, Olympiacos used better work on the offensive boards and a triple by Christos Harissis to jump ahead 1-8. Bagaric already had 2 baskets also, a good sign for the visitors, who then got first baskets from Liadelis and Diamantopoulos to go ahead 3-12, provoking Alba's first timeout. The Berliners came back with quick baskets by Marko Pesic and Stanojevic to pull within 7-12, but then the committed several turnovers that Olympiacos turned into easy fast breaks. Diamantopoulos scored 4 more points as the lead hit 11-22. A triple by Stefano Garris for Alba and free throws by Liadelis finished the first quarter with the Reds already well ahead, 14-25.
Stanojevic and Jurak opened the second quarter with 2 baskets each, then Collins and Petrovic took over the initiative for Alba with 6 points only answered by a layup from Liadelis. Jurak was hot from outside, too, and with a triple for 24-34 again put 10 points between Alba and the guests. Olympiacos coach Dragan Sakota insterted all his bench players step by step, but they struggled a little against Alba's improving inside defense. Meanwhile, on offense, Alba went to their big guys, Stanojevic and Teoman Ozturk, though Milan Tomic and Boris Gorenc kept the guests in front 31-38. Stanojevic scored again after a steal by Chuck Evans, but Giorgios Giannouzakos and Diamantopoulos hit two huge three-pointers to save the 33-44 halftime lead of the guests.
After a triple by Pesic early in the second half, the score stuck on 38-46 for a few minutes, as both teams were stalled by mistakes: turnovers by Stanojevic and Pesic, several missed three-pointers by Gorenc and Collins, airballs by Tomic and so on. Then Collins, with a layup, made it 40-46, while Gorenc and Pesic traded triples. The scoreboard read 43-49 and the Berlin crowd of 5,000 saw their team with new chances. With Petrovic and Stanojevic scoring, the Berliners crawled nearer, at 47-49, but Evangelos Sklavos answered with a layup. Collins sandwiched two drives around another by Petrovic, however, to give Alba its first lead of the game with 54-51. Diamantopoulos tied with a triple, but after a Collins free throw left Alba in front, 55-54, after 30 minutes.
The fourth quarter started withn more setbacks for Olympiacos: John Best hit his first triple for Alba, Collins added another basket and Jurak received his fifth foul. Bagaric and Ozturk exchanged shots that put the score at 62-56. But then Alba lost concentration on offense, missing 3 shots that re-opened the game to Olympiacos, as Diamantopoulos and Liadelis scored for 62-61. Petrovic answered with a huge triple, but Liadelis, so far shut down by Collins, emerged wth 4 more points for a 65-65 tie. Collins and Sklavos put the score to 67-67, setting up a foul line thriller in the last minute. Sklavos committed his fifth foul, but Collins made only 1 of 2 free-throws. On the other end Liadelis with 20 seconds to go hits both of his foul shots for 68-69. Collins was stopped by a foul with 8.9 seconds left and made both shots now for 70-69. Olympiacos got the ball to Bagaric, who was fouled with 0.8 seconds showing on the clock. Proving strong nerves, Bagaric hit both free-throws for a 70-71 win that put Olympiacos on the high road to the Top 16.
Wednesday, February 18, 2004