Olympiacos uses second-half run to drop Unicaja
Olympiacos Piraeus began its Turkish Airlines Euroleague title defense in the same fashion it used to make history last season: a come-from-behind win. The Reds went on a 25-4 second-half run to turn a 1-point deficit into a 60-49 lead en route to a 69-61 win in front of a packed house at Peace and Friendship Stadium. Olympiacos may have struggled early, but dominated late with accurate three-point shooting and strong defense. Brent Petway and Matt Lojeski played pivotal roles in the comeback, each making 3 of 4 three-pointers on the night. Reigning Euroleague MVP Vassilis Spanoulis finished with 13 points and 6 assists for the Reds, Petway also scored 13 and Lojeski netted 12. Fran Vazquez paced Unicaja with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. Zoran Dragic also scored 12 in defeat.
First quarter:Dragic, Vazquez lead Unicaja to great start
Georgios Printezis opened the scoring for the champs in the paint, but Jayson Granger wen coast to coast for Unicaja’s first basket and Carlos Suarez put the visitors on top. Spanoulis made free throws for a 4-4 tie. Dragic shined with a fast break layup off a steal and Rafa Hettsheimeir bettered Spanoulis's driving basket with a bomb from downtown, good for a 6-9 Unicaja lead. Olympiacos kept running its offense through Spanoulis, but he was double-teamed on every play. Hettsheimeir led Unicaja with a follow-up layup and Dragic struck twice from downtown in extending the lead to 8-17. The Reds marched back on baskets from Printezis and Matt Lojeski. Fran Vazquez recorded the ultimate Fantasy Challenge play – offensive rebound, basket, foul drawn and free throw made – to keep Unicaja in charge. Vazquez scored again after a Kostas Sloukas triple. Spanoulis scored the 2,000th points of his career with a triple to end the quarter, 18-22.
Second quarter: Vazquez’s defense highlights low-scoring period
Vazquez made his impact felt at both ends with a pair of blocked shots on defense and a second ultimate fantasy play. The hosts were held scoreless for over four minutes before Petway drained a three, but since Vazquez’s three-point play was Unicaja’s lone tally in that stretch, the difference remained 4. A second Petway triple delighted the fans and put the scoreboard at 24-25 midway through the quarter. After Vladimir Stimac missed a pair of free throws, Unicaja turned a minus into a plus by getting the rebound, which resulted in Dragic burying his third three of the night. Stimac and Dragic split free throws to lift Unicaja to 6 in front. Spanoulis hit back for Olympiacos, but Earl Calloway ended the half with a pull-up three at the buzzer to leave Unicaja leading 26-33.
Third quarter: Late threes bring the Reds back from double-digit deficit
Nik Caner-Medley opened his Unicaja account with the first points of the second half. Missed shots and turnovers on both sides kept the scoreboard from moving much. A Caner-Medley triple gave the visitors a double-digit lead, but Lojeski responded immediately with a three from the corner. Printezis sank his trademark push shot before Bryant Dunston made an acrobatic layup to bring the Reds within 33-38. The crowd began to buzz with some ping pong like action leading up to a Sloukas layup-plus-foul that capped a 9-0 run. Unicaja answered almost as quickly and following a Hettsheimeir triple and an offensive rebound and slam from Vazquez, it was a double-digit lead once more. A timeout seemed to energize the hosts, who came back with back-to-back threes from Printezis and Mojeski to close within 41-45. Despite a Unicaja timeout, Petway made the Reds’ third straight three to make it 44-45 at the end of the quarter.
Fourth quarter: Olympiacos completed 25-4 march to wrest control of game thanks
Lojeski solved a broken play by drawing a foul and splitting free throws and Petway soon gave the Reds a 46-45 edge - its first since the game's opening basket -, after an 11-0 run. Caner-Medley made 1-of-2 foul shots, but Vangelis Mantzaris answered with a rainbow triple from the left corner and an alley-oop slam by Petway made it a 5-point game. Caner-Medley rescued Unicaja with a three-pointer, as Spanoulis returned to the floor. He fed Sloukas for a triple that caused Unicaja to call timeout at 54-49. Perperoglou scored around the basket and a fast break layup off a steal by Petway boosted Olympiacos's lead to 58-49. Another fast break layup by Perperoglou forced Coach Joan Plaza to call a much-needed timeout, 60-49, with over four minutes left. Suarez made 4 free throws but Simmons scored down low for a 62-53 Olympiacos edge with over three minutes left. Granger hit a one-handed floater in the lane and a jump hook by Vazquez gave Unicaja hope at 62-57. Olympiacos called timeout and Lojeski sealed the outcome with a three-pointer, allowing his team's fans to celebrate yet another big win in come-from-behind fashion!
Friday, October 18, 2013