Olympiacos killed the ghosts of a tough first month of the season by winning in its home court for the first time Thursday by 83-77 over Adecco Asvel, one of the surprises of Group A. Having lost both previous Euroleague games on its new home court, not to mention a pair more against Greek opponents, the Reds stopped the slide with great defense and strength under the boards. Demarco Johnson was the top scorer for the winners with 27 points. Nenad Markovic added 16, Milan Tomic 11 and newcomer Juan Antonio Morales 10. For Asvel, Stevin Smith led the way 19 points, while four of his teammates also broke into double digits: Davor Marcelic with 15, Robert Gulyas with 12 and Thierry Gadou with 10. Olympiacos upped its record to 2-3 while Asvel went back a step to 3-2, leaving first place in the group exclusively for CSKA of Moscow.
Johnson was just fabulous, scoring 17 points to give Olympiacos a six-point lead after the the first 20 minutes of game. Asvel had taken a short lead early in the first period with Smith scoring 10 points in 10 minutes. Olympiakos passed the ball to big men Johnson and Morales, who were looking in good shape as the Reds made a 7-0 run, taking the lead at 18-13 late in first quarter. The French champions found great response in the form of big three-pointers from their shooter, Marcelic, so it was appropriate that both teams shared a 22-22 tie at the end of first period.
Olympiacos played harder defense in the whole second period, controlled the rebounds and rode Johnson's hot hand. The versatile forward would make it into the locker room with 17 points and 5 rebounds. Markovic had a supporting role on the perimeter with 2 three-pointers made already, the Olympiacos defense held Smith to just a single basket in the second quarter. The 38-32 scoreboard was notable for the lack of points in the second quarter as both teams speng more time diving for loose balls forced on each other by the intensity of the defenses.
When the third period started, Marcelic did his thing again! With two more big threes, the Croatian sharpshooter helped Asvel on a 4-13 run that transformed the score to a 48-48 tie midway through the third quarter. Tomic, the home team captain, did not flinch, however. With his three-pointer and 6 more points from Johnson, Olympiacos managed to escape with its biggest lead of the whole game, 60-50, with 1 minute left in the end of third period.
Olympiacos led again by as many as 14 points, 67-53, early in the last period. Asvel didn't become dangerous again until 5 minutes remained in the game. Smith and Thierry Gadou cut the margin to 7 points, 71-64. But Tomic cut that trend by sinking 2 more three-pointers, killing Asvel's comeback dream in the process. Turnovers during the final minutes cost Asvel as well. Olympiacos was not going to give away a home win it was waiting so long for.
Thursday, November 7, 2002