Olympiacos, an 83-79 survivor against Prokom
After all the drama of a heavyweight prize fight, Olympiacos turned back dead-serious visitor Asseco Prokom Gdynia 83-79 in the opening game of their playoff series on Tuesday in Piraeus, Greece. In a battle that showed both teams have enough talent to deliver knockout punches, Olympiacos threw just a few more of them to survive for a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Game 2 is on Thursday, also in Piraeus. Prokom shocked everyone by taking an 0-11 lead after the first-quarter tipoff and holding onto leads into the secodn half. Even when Olympiacos took over by double-digits with under 4 minutes left, however, Prokom rallied for a chance to tie in the final minute before Milos Teodosic hit the free throws that assured victory. Linas Kleiza was once again the big run for the Reds, with 26 points, every one of which proved necessary, while Teodosic pumped in 21 more and Josh Childress 13. For Prokom, Qyntel Woods was huge with a double-double of 23 points, 11 rebounds. Ronnie Burrell added 14 points, Daniel Ewing 13, Ratko Varda 12 and David Logan 11.
Prokom won the tipoff and struck immediately with a long two-pointer by Burrell. Next, Woods floated to the lane for a one-hander to make it 0-4 for the guests, who then got a big block from Adam Lapeta. The Reds, after watching Sofo Schortsanitis miss his fourth free throw so far, also watched Burrell go long for an easy layup at 0-6. When another pair of turnovers was followed by Woods skying for a dunk and Logan burying a fastbreak triple, it was an amazing 0-11 and Olympiacos needed a timeout. Childress finally got the Reds on the scoreboard with free throws after almost 4 minutes. Lapeta's second foul, a charge drawn by Teodosic, led to Kleiza's first basket, a high hook off an offensive rebound. After Burrell restored Prokom's double-digit margin with a triple at 4-14, Ioannis Bouroussis lowered it at the foul line. The Prokom defense's first mistake left Childress alone for a dunk, and its second saw Kleiza feed Bouroussis for another on the break at 10-14. After another timeout, Woods lifted Prokom with a basket before Childress matched him and added free throws. Burrell got one of them back, but Bouroussis wowed the crowd with a follow-up slam and Teodosic fed Kleiza for the first Olympiacos lead, 18-17. On the quarter's last play, however, Varda's tip-in put Prokom back up, 18-19, as it had been for most of 10 minutes.
To Prokom's benefit, it became a more defensive game in the second quarter, even though Kleiza got going for Olympiacos with a layup and a triple for a new 23-21 lead by the hosts. Varda's second basket in the quarter soon put Prokom back in front, however, at 24-25. And while Loukas Mavrokefalidis took the lead back for Olympiacos, Ewing did the same for Prokom at 26-27. Logan lengthened the difference at the foul line, and after another stretch of hard-to-come-by points, his triple boosted the visitors to a solid 28-32 advantage. A free throw by Piotr Szczotka added to Prokom's edge, but Schortsanitis returned to the line and this time made 2 of 2. Woods sashayed to the basket for an incredible bank shot, but Kleiza answered from longer distance to make it 33-35. Going in to the half's final minute, Yotam Halperin rebounded, went the length of the court and passed to Kleiza for a game-tying fastbreak dunk. Woods responded with go-ahead free throws, and Burrell put the icing on a great half with a running jumper to keep Prokom up 35-39 at the break.
A clearly confident Prokom came out smoking in the third quarter, with Varda dropping a turnaround jumper and Woods a sweet reverse on the break at 35-43. The Reds calmed themselves with a pair of shots in the lane by Teodosic and Childress before Prokom left Kleiza alone on the arc to blast a three-point swish that made it 42-43. The visitors took a timeout to talk about it, but their earlier confidence didn't come back. A quick steal-and-layup by Scoonie Penn put Olympiacos in front again, 44-43. Kleiza added a free throw to that before Woods backed down for a game-tying layup at 45-45. Little-used little man Penn answered from downtown for Olympiacos and then pulled a big defensive rebound in a crowd, which eventually sent Teodosic to the line to make it 50-45 after a 15-2 run. Ewing came out of nowhere, however, to bury a triple for Prokom. After Nikola Vujcic made a great feed to Kleiza for a reverse dunk, there came Ewing again, drilling a new three-pointer from the top, good for a 52-51 score. Teodosic wasn't going to be outdone in his own building, though. From the same spot on the wing, once receiving the pass, once off the dribble, he matched Ewing's pair of triples to let the Reds soar ahead to their biggest lead yet, 58-51. After a Prokom turnover, Kleiza was back with a smooth jumper, but Woods answered it from further out for a triple at 60-54 as a wild quarter ended with great promise for the last 10 minutes!
Theo Papaloukas tried to put the game out of reach by nailing from the arc to open the final quarter, and when Childress added a dunk, Olympiacos had its first double-digit lead, 65-54. But Prokom would not say die as Ewing and Woods combined on the next 6 points to make it 65-60. When Kleiza then took a feed from Teodosic for a three-pointer, Adam Hrycaniuk drove for a basket-plus-foul to match. Likewise, when Teodosic blasted another triple to seemingly knock Prokom down again, Burrell was ready with his own two-point jumper against great defense at the other end. A trio of free throws by Teodosic, who was fouled attempting another triple, came next. Then, with a fantastic back-door bounce pass from Papaloukas to Teodosic, Olympiacos had another 10-point lead, 79-69. But Prokom's heart was too big. Varda immediately took a bite out of the difference and Woods another. When Logan found Varda for another baseline jumper, it was 80-75 with 1:30 to play. Teodosic's three-pointer missed at one end, and Logan tried his luck, catapulting off a screen, at the other. It went down, new ballgame, 80-78 going into the last minute, Olympiacos timeout. After Papaloukas missed from deep, Prokom had a chance to tie, but Logan's turnoover gave Teodosic free throws he did not betray, putting the Reds up 82-78 with 18.4 seconds left. Ewing quickly hit 1 of 2 free throws, but after Teodosic matched him, Prokom's last three-point try failed and Olympiacos hung on for an exhausting 83-79 victory.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010