Union Olimpija started the Euroleague season in Group A with a home win over Partizan Mobtel on Thursday by 69-67, surviving a tight ending which was in Partizan's hands. For the winners, Marino Bazdaric led the way with 22 points, Roberts Stelmahers added 21 and Smiljan Pavic bagged 17 as the rest of the players combined for 9 points only. For Partizan, Djuro Ostojic, who had the winning shot in his hands but missed, posted 25 points. Frederick House chipped in with 11 and Dusan Kecman tallied 10. With the thrilling win, Olimpija joins the winning teams of the group with a 1-0, while Partizan starts with a 0-1.
Destiny decreed that two teams who were rivals in past decades found each other for the first time after 12 years in the opening game of the Euroleague on Thursday in Slovenia.
For many of the players it was also the first game at such a high level and the game started nervous with many missed shots and turnovers. Partizan was the one to take better advantage of this situation and forged a 0-10 run in 5 minutes for a 2-10 advantage, forcing young Slovenian coach Saso Filipovski to call a first timeout. At the beginning, it didn't have a big effect as the guests went on pacing the game. Olimpija had to wait until minute 7 for its second basket, 4-11. The 3,000 fans at the game had to wait until the appearance of Bazdaric to watch their team rally, as he scored 11 straight points in the first quarter that made the score 15-16, and with 2 free throws by Stelmahers, the hosts jumped ahead for the first time since the initial 2-0.
Bazdaric continued also with his great performance in the second quarter, and scored his 14th point in minute 14 for a 23-20. As such, the 13 points by Ostojic in the first half were enough only to follow Olimpija's pace. Partizan had to wait until minute 28 to jump in the lead again, 28-30, but that was only for a few moments as Olimpija replied with 8 straight points that earned them a six-point lead at the break, 36-30.
While Partizan boss Djuro Vujosevic started the second half with the same players as the first one, Filipovski started with a small team that already forced him to make changes in the first minutes. Smiljan Pavic and Aloysius Anagonye couldn't stop Ostojic and Goran Cakic, but they did undoubtedly better than Saso Ozbolt and Dzenan Rahimic. That's how the game became balances again in minute 28, 47-47, as not a mistake was forgivable as it could be decisive for the final result.
Neither team had more than one or two baskets of advantage. First it was the turn of Partizan who jumped ahead at 53-56, but Olimpija followed with 58-56 and the guests went back to 64-67 with 2 minutes to go. The Slovenians tied the game with 47 seconds to go, with a free throw by Simon Petrov. Gerald Brown missed a mid-range shot in the following play, not like Pavic who tipped in with 8 seconds to go. Partizan had enough time for the last play, but Ostojic couldn't his a hard seven-meter three-pointer that would have been the game winner.
Thursday, November 6, 2003