Bennet Cantu topped Olympiacos 64-63
Another party atmosphere in Desio, Italy ended in joy for the home fans again as Bennet Cantu outlasted visiting Olympiacos 64-63 on a free throw with 7.8 seconds left by Giorgi Shermadini. Cantu, in its return to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague after a 17-year absence, raised its record to 3-1, with all victories at home. With one game left to play in the group, Nancy vs. Caja Laboral on Thursday, Cantu will either be alone in second place or tied with both for the group lead at the end of the week. Olympiacos, meanwhile, has dropped to 1-3, with its last two defeats on the road by a combined 3 points, and shares a fifth-place tie with Bizkaia Bilbao Basket. The sellout crowd in Desio saw a game as tight as its final score, with series of ties and lead changes in every quarter except the second, when Olympiacos took the game's biggest lead, 9 points, 18-27. The Reds were up 49-55 early in the fourth before Cantu rallied behind veteran Denis Marconato, and was still even on free throws by Vassilis Spanoulis with 20 seconds left before Shermadini broke the last tie. Maarten Leunen led the winners with 12 points and 6 rebounds, while Marconato added 10 and 6, respectively, as well as 3 blocks, without missing a shot all night. Olympiacos got 23 points from Spanoulis, who went 9 for 9 on free throws, while Marko Keselj scored 11. The biggest difference in the stats department came in assists, with 19 for Cantu - including 6 by Andrea Cinciarini - to just 8 total for Olympiacos.
Keselj opened the scoring for the visitors from downtown. , Manuchar Markohisvili answered with a pull-up jumper for the hosts, then traded free throws with Spanoulis at 4-5. Leunen rained a three-pointer from the top to give Cantu its first lead, which Nicolas Mazzarino pushed to 9-6 with a perfect jumper coming off a screen. Olympiacos was quick to respond, ripping through an 8-0 run with back-to-back triples by DImitrios Katsivelis and Keselj to seize the lead again, 9-14, after 7 minutes as reserves started coming on the floor. Two from the Cantu bench, Gianluca Basile and Giorgi Shermadini, connected for a two-hand dunk, while Martynas Gecevicius converted free throws for Olympiacos to give the Reds a 12-16 advantage after 10 minutes.
From beyond the arc, Gecevicius extended the Olympiacos lead to begin the second quarter and Katsivelis found easy points on the break and make it 14-21. Basile and Marko Scekic combined on 4 much-needed point then for Cantu, but soon the Greek side re-established a nine-point margin, 18-27, thanks to 4 points from Kyle Hines and free throws from Kostas Papanikolaou. A long-distance shot of Leunen re-started Cantu's engine, and then he completed a three-point-play at 24-28. Kalin Lucas wrote his name on the Olympiacos scorers list with a lay up, then made an acrobatic shot off a steal by Spanoulis to make it. Spanoulis, the 2009 Final Four MVP, showed all his talent on a full-court basket, but all-time three-point shot leader Basile finished the half from deep, with Olympiacos clinging to a 31-34 adavantage.
Vladimir Micov for Cantu and Gecevicius for Olympiacos traded mid-range shots to open the second-half scoring. Then, the momentum seemed to change as the veteran Mazzarino fired in a rocket from the arc, while Shermadini slammed for a sudden 38-36 lead for Cantu. A 24-second violation by Olympiacos, another dunk of Shermadini, assisted by Cinciarini, and a jumper by Marconato capped an 11-2 run for Cantu's biggest lead yet, 42-36. Spanoulis stopped the scoreless slide for the guests, but Marconato responded with a dunk on great Cantu ball movement. Papadopoulos scored in the paint to keep it close, 44-40, midway through of the quarter. When Spanoulis went end-to-end and Keselj finished a break with a triple, the score was tied 45-45. Olympiacos was on fire, and Papadopuolos completed a 0-9 run to give the Reds a lead again, 45-49 after 30 minutes.
Markohisvili drove Cantu closer to open the final quarter, but Spanoulis scored from beyond the arc on a pick-and-roll at 47-52. Next, he got fouled attempting another three-pointer, and drained all the free throws for what looked like a 49-55 advantage for the Reds. Instead, Cinciarini scored once and assisted the veteran Marconato on the first of his back-to-back baskets that quickly tied the score at 55-55. Scekic then gave the lead back to the hosts but Spanoulis answered immediately on the other side at 57-57. Next, after Markohisvili bagged a mid-range jumper, Spanoulis buried another three-pointer to return the lead to Olympiacos, 59-60, with 2 minutes, 30 seconds remaining. Marconato was perfect from the foul line as Cantu led again, while Gecevicius scored 1 of 2 free throws to forge another tie, 61-61. With 45 second left and Cinciarini out with 5 fouls, Basile and Leunen combined on a tie-breaking alley-oop basket that rolled around the rim a few times before falling, bringing the 5,000-plus crowd at Paladesio out of their seats again. With 26 seconds on the clock, however, Spanoulis chipped in his free throws for yet another tie, 63-63. On the last possession for Cantu, Shermadini was fouled trying to roll off a screen and, with 7.8 seconds left, made the first of his free throws. The second was rebounded by Hines, who raced down the floor but missed the potential game-winning layup, to the delight of the Cantu crowd!
Wednesday, November 9, 2011