Montepaschi Siena downed Olympiacos Piraeus 81-72
Montepaschi Siena defeated Olympiacos 81-72 on Tuesday night at the Palaestra to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five Playoff series. Montepaschi is now one win away from making it to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four in Barcelona. The Italian champs’ second win in a row came courtesy of a 24-point performance by Marko Jaric, who did not miss any of his 8 two-point field goals. Jaric scored 9 points in a 21-13 third quarter as his team took charge for good. Ksistof Lavrinovic and Rimantas Kaukenas added 15 points each, while David Moss had 11. Lavrinovic also led the rebounding department with 7 boards. Olympiacos was not able to counter the hosts’ aggressive defense and committed 20 turnovers. Rasho Nesterovic paced the Reds with 16 points Vassilis Spanoulis added 15 points and 4 assists, Jamon Gordon scored 9, and Theodoros Papaloukas recorded 8 points and 6 assists in defeat. Game 4 is scheduled for Thursday night, again at the Palaestra, with Game 5, if necessary, to be played back in Piraeus, Greece.
Despite head coach Dusan Ivkovic acknowledging that the guard was still not 100% physically, Milos Teodosic started for Olympiacos after having missed the first two games of the series due to injury. The reigning Euroleague MVP scored his first basket on a jumpshot for a quick 2-5 visiting advantage, as the Reds played patiently in the half court offense, trying to set up Ioannis Bourousis in the post and take advantage with open looks when the defense collapsed. But Siena played excellent perimeter defense while negating good inside position for the visiting big men. As they attacked the rim fearlessly at the other end, the hosts stayed with Olympiacos, as a sweet Moss three-point play on a fade-away jumper scored it 9-10. Montepaschi took the lead soon after with a Nikos Zisis put-back and the battle turned inside, where Shaun Stonerook and Loukas Mavrokefalides banged, though it was star substitute Jaric who gave his team a spark with three consecutive jumpers, the last two from beyond the arc, to push Siena on top 21-14 by the end of the first quarter.
Game 2 MVP Malik Hairston entered the court in the second quarter, but it was Olympiacos’s Spanoulis who finally found the bottom of the net with his first field goal on a mid-range shot. Still, Jaric kept the hot hand going, first with a bank shot and then a clean jumper to keep Montepaschi in the driver’s seat at 25-20. In what had to be a concerning trend for the visitors, veteran Papaloukas committed his team’s ninth turnover in just 15 minutes and Milovan Rakovic rattled the rim with a two-handed dunk on the ensuing possession, as Olympiacos seemed out of sync, both with its passing and perimeter shooting. Ivkovic’s men were manufacturing good looks, but simply were not able to convert on them. Montepaschi moved the ball well on offense and, when in doubt, drove to the basket or crashed the boards. Rakovic picked up the intensity level, challenging center Nesterovic in the paint as the two big men traded baskets, and Olympiacos finally seemed to get things going with a Yotam Halperin triple and a gutsy drive by Papaloukas that netted a trip to the line to tie it at 33-33. Just as the visitors seemed to grip momentum entering halftime though, another turnover by Spanoulis allowed Kaukenas to hit a buzzer beater and reach the break with Montepaschi on top 39-37.
Lavrinovic hit his first triple of the night to start the third quarter, and both teams did not miss a beat in the second half. Tempers flared on a Spanoulis collision with Moss that sparked a reaction from the visitors, who became more aggressive on their drives to the basket and post isolations. Still, buckets were hard to come by on both sides. It was Jaric again who energized the Italian champs with a determined left-handed drive before Lavrinovic added his second long-range bomb and Kaukenas made another triple to give Montepaschi its maximum lead at 51-44. As Ivkovic burned a timeout with momentum dangerously edging towards the home side, Olympiacos still was not able to slow the game down against Siena’s pressing defense, while surrendering again to a gorgeous Jaric up-and-under and a Moss breakaway dunk that forced another timeout at 55-46. A Matt Nielsen hook shot got the visitors a much-needed basket before Papaloukas assisted a trailing Jamon Gordon for a fastbreak layup, but Jaric confirmed his hot hand with a soft jumper and back-breaking triple to follow, allowing for his team to reach the final quarter on top once more, 60-50.
The 9-point third quarter by Jaric did not deter Olympiacos from playing within its slow-tempos system against a Siena team that was intent on pushing the ball up the court. A Spanoulis mid-range shot and Gordon jumper tightened the margin to 62-56. But every time the Reds made a push, Montepaschi had an answer: first another swift Jaric drive, then on a three-point play and triple by the also on-a-roll Lavrinovic. With the lead at 70-57 and just over six minutes to go, Ivkovic’s crew pressed defensively, trying to cool down coach Simone Pianigiani’s confident bunch. But when Stonerook wasn’t sealing the paint on defense, the dynamic power forward was shaking loose for a dagger three-pointer on offense and Siena kept riding the home crowd to belt out a 16-point advantage. Nesterovic scored 6 straight points and the visitors narrowed it to a single-digit difference after a jaw-dropping reverse layup by Papaloukas and a Spanoulis triple with under 1:30 left. The deficit dwindled to 7 points after another inside bucket by Nesterovic with just a minute to go, but Kaukenas answered the call when his team needed him most, dropping a clutch jumper over Papaloukas to make it 79-70 with 30 ticks left to seal the second victory for Siena.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011