Montepaschi KO’d Olympiacos 88-76
Montepaschi Siena completed a historic series win over Olympiacos with an 88-76 victory at the Palaestra to win their Quarterfinal Playoffs series 3-1 and clinch a spot in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four. Siena, who last made the Final Four in 2008, will head to Barcelona after an impressive come-from-behind performance in the series, bouncing back from an embarrassing Game 1 loss in Piraeus to string three straight victories together en route to the Final Four. Olympiacos will miss the Final Four after making it in each of the past two seasons.The Italian champs capitalized on a 29-18 first quarter to take control and held on the rest of the way thanks to its iron clad defense, which forced 17 turnovers from Olympiacos. The Reds never seemed to get in sync offensively and ended up shooting just 28% from beyond the arc. Malik Hairston paced the winners with 25 points and 7 rebounds and Ksistof Lavrinovic added 19, while Marko Jaric recorded 12 points and Shaun Stonerook tallied 10 points and 5 rebounds. Olympiacos could not overcome its poor start despite Ioannis Bourousis’s 16 points and 5 rebounds. Jamon Gordon also scored 16 and Milos Teodosic and Yotam Halperin added 10 each in defeat.
Former Euroleague MVP Teodosic did not start for Olympiacos after playing just under 10 minutes in Game 3, but Halperin assured the Greek side enjoyed a good spark to initiate the game by scoring his team’s first 5 points. For Montpeaschi, it was veteran Stonerook early, as the forward hit 2 crowd-energizing triples and tacked on a put-back to total the first 8 Siena points. Both teams stayed even and traded punches in the opening quarter, as the hosts pushed the tempo and converted quick shots, while Dusan Ivkovic’s crew favored the pick-and-roll game, and the midway point of the quarter was reached at 12-12. Intent on getting its post game going, the visitors pounded the ball inside to Bourousis and Zoran Erceg, though the hosts took a 24-26 lead thanks to some spot-on perimeter shooting and decisive drives by Hairston, who capitalized from the free throw-line. With Bo McCalebb directing matters, the home team tried to get out on the transition game, but Olympiacos kept alert and managed to end the quarter at a still manageable 29-18 distance, after Hairston drained a jumper at the buzzer.
The Reds opted for a defensive full-court press to start the second quarter and tried to disrupt the hosts’ flow, but Montepaschi moved the ball crisply on offense and found high-energy substitute Jaric on the perimeter for a sweet jumper that made it 36-23 before Rasho Nesterovic scored his first bucket to bring the score down again to single digits. With Vassilis Spanoulis not hitting his mark on his long-range looks, Siena was able to get out running after defensive rebounds and crashed the offensive glass as well through the always active David Moss. While Olympiacos struggled against the aggressive home defense and turned the ball over repeatedly, Hairston was feeling it for Montepaschi at the other end, swishing turnaround jumpers, driving to the basket, daring visiting defenders to stop his one-on-one play and ending with 9 points in the quarter and 19 for the half. Halperin kept Olympiacos in the game from beyond the arc and Gordon had some nice baskets off the dribble, but Montepaschi constantly beat Ivkovic’s squad down the floor, capitalizing on easy buckets and entering halftime well in command, 50-36.
Olympiacos needed to manufacture some easy makes to get back in the game after the break, and again went deep in the paint to start the third quarter, a recipe that had worked extremely well for them in Game 1. Loukas Mavrokefalides entered the contest in an attempt to solidify the frontcourt, and a layup by the center followed a Gordon triple to keep the visitors within distance at 55-43. Lavrinovic and Bourousis banged inside, and the former answered a dunk by the latter by stepping outside to drop a three-pointer before Teodosic entered the game again and also found Gordon behind the arc: 59-49. With the visitors more stout on the defensive end and the glass, Montepaschi’s transition game suffered and the hosts had to work harder for their looks. Spanoulis finally found the bottom of the net from downtown, making it a single-digit affair again, before 3 free throws by Teodosic narrowed it to a two-possession game: 63-58. The paint battle heated up, as Lavrinovic scrapped a three-point play off Mavrokefalides’s tight defense that riled up the crowd and Milovan Rakovic dropped a put-back for his first field goal to enter the final quarter at a 68-61 advantage for the hosts.
Both teams felt the importance of a good start to the fourth quarter and none better than Jaric. The reserve guard, a decisive factor in Game 3, tacked on 7 straight points by way of a triple and two transition layups to stretch his team’s lead to 75-65. Hairston again found the basket after an offensive board, but Montepaschi failed to put their feet on Olympiacos’s neck at the midway point of the quarter, when Ivkovic’s men seemed to self-combust with a string of turnovers. The Reds labored in the trenches with Bourousis and fronted the hosts with resilience on their own end, but Hairston found the ball repeatedly on broken plays for easy makes and Nikos Zisis scored on a nice baseline drive to the basket to keep Montepaschi dreaming at 81-69 with under four minutes to go. With points and time of the essence, Olympiacos rushed shots through Spanoulis, while Rimantas Kaukenas dropped a deep bomb to extend the difference to 15 points with two minutes to go. Bourousis gave the visitors some hope with his own three-pointer to make it 84-74 with 1:30 left, but Spanoulis missed again and an unsportsmanlike foul on Teodosic practically sealed the deal, as Lavrinovic hit both free throws and Jaric swished the ensuing dagger jumper. With the score 88-74 and only 24 ticks left on the clock, Bourousis’s final free throws were like tears lost in the rain for Olympiacos. With Montepaschi headed to the Final Four as the final horn sounded, if any tears were shown on the Palaestra stands at all, they were tears of joy.
Thursday, March 31, 2011