Olympiacos prevail 95-90 over perennial Final Four contender Tau Ceramica
A back-and-forth battle between classic Euroleague rivals saw host Olympiacos prevail 95-90 over perennial Final Four contender Tau Ceramica in Group A on Thursday in Piraeus, Greece. Olympiacos was in full control, leading by 18 points at the half, but a third-quarter blitz by Tau made it an even game the rest of the way, until the Reds needed to rally with a late scoring spurt to hold onto the victory. In a team full of newcomers, it was holdover Arvydas Macijauskas who finished off Tau with late points at the line. Macijauskas led all scoers with 21 points to go with 7 steals and 3 assists. New center Marc Jackson matched those 21 points, while Lynn Greer drilled 20, including a key three-pointer near the end, and Qyntel Woods 19. Giannis Bouroussis added a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds for the winners. Tau got an even bigger double blast out of Mirza Teletovic, who scored 19 points and pulled 17 rebounds, 9 of them on offense. Zoran Planinic also scored 19 for Tau, while Tiago Splitter had 11 points and Igor Rakocevic 10. Tau erased all of a 20-point deficit early in the second half to lead by 3 points, 71-74, early in the final quarter, but ran out of solutions at the end.
Good passing resulted in a triple by Pablo Prigioni to get Tau started at 0-3. Olympiacos decided to play the zone defense right from the beginning, but the guests did not find any trouble to score in their second possession, too, with Tiago Splitter putting it in this time. The Reds reacted with Macijauskas connecting for 4 straight points and Marc Jackson giving Olympiacos its first lead at 6-5. A quick exchange of three-point shots - with Rakosevic and Teletovic matching Macijauskas and Qyntel Woods of Olympiacos - left an 11-11 tie. Against the Reds’ zone defense, Tau players found room for drives to the basket, but waiting there to block shots were Olympiacos big men Bouroussis, Tsakalidis and Woods. Both teams found points at the free-throw line, before big men Bouroussis and Jackson both fired in from behind the arc to give the hosts a 24-18 lead. Zoran Planinic rose for a good jumper to answer back for Tau, but with free throws by Jackson, the first quarter ended 26-20 in favor of Olympiacos.
A basket-plus-free throw by Bouroussis gave Olympiacos the biggest lead so far, 31-22, to start the second quarter. Planinic continued to be the go-to guy for Tau as he nested another nice jumper. Woods stepped up now for Olympiacos, first putting back an offensive rebound and then burying a triple to make it 38-25. Tau now had difficulties creating opportunities against the Olympiacos zone. The hosts took advantage with good passing as Jackson dished an assist to Greer and then posted up for a hook shot and a 44-27 Olympiacos advantage. Tau needed something and got it as Mirza Teletovic tipped in the ball, Splitter connected in the paint and a triple by Rakosevic cut the difference to 46-34. Jackson answered with a jumper, giving him 15 points already, the same as Greer, who exchanged triples with Prigioni at 51-37. Another assist by Jackson, this time to Milos Teodosic, and free throws by Macijauskas boosted Olympiacos ahead by 55-37, giving the Reds their highest margin yet heading to the lockers for halftime.
Jackson opened fire in the third period with a triple to make it 58-37. Tau committed two errors, but soon Teletovic and Planinic combined for 5 points that seemed little at the time, making it 58-42. Woods connected for the Reds, but Teletovic was now hot with a three-pointer that proved to be the beginning of Tau comeback. After McDonald finished a nice lay-up-plus free throw for the visitors, Planinic created room for a driving backet and and McDonald scored on an offensive board. The visitors had trimmed the difference to 60-52 within 3 minutes and Olympiacos head coach Pini Gershon had to call timeout. Jackson stepped up again to stop Tau's 15-2 scoring run with a basket-plus-free throw. But the guests' confidence was now too high to stop. Planinic chipped in a triple from downtown and 4 straight Tau points from the line made it 63-59. Planinic then buried his fourth three-pointer to bring Tau within 63-62. Giorgos Printezis scored to let Olympiacos breathe, but Rakosevic tied the game at 65-65 to complete the visitors' comeback. Just the same, a stylish drive by Woods and a signature triple by Macijauskas allowed Olympiacos to lead again by a solid 70-65 after 30 minutes.
Planinic stole the ball twice from Teodosic to score and dish an assist as Tau turned a 0-6 streak into a 70-71 advantage - its first since the opneing quarter - to start the final one. Pete Mickeal hit a corner triple to boost Tau's lead to 71-74, but immediately Woods answered back with an off-balance jumper at 73-74. Macijauskas and Woods were now bearing offensive responsibility for Olympiacos, but Mickeal and Splitter were there for Tau, too, as the scoreboard stood at 77-78 in a point-by-point game. Macijauskas's catch-and-shot jumper made it 81-78 for the hosts, but Mickeal remained connected. Woods dunked impressively and dished the assist for a fastbreak dunk by Bouroussis and an 85-80 Olympiacos' lead. Then Greer fired up a key triple to make it 88-80 with 3:30 left to play. Teletovic tipped in a shot and Sergi Vidal buried a three-pointer to keep Tau alive at 88-85 with under 2 minutes left. Teletovic soon shot for a tie from the corner, but missed, allowing Greer to end a scoring drought with free throws for Olympiacos to stay ahead 90-85 with 32 seconds to go. McDonald got 2 of those back at the line, making it 90-87, but Tau was now obliged to foul to stop the clock. Macijauskas didn't miss his free throws, but Teletovic found another three-pointer to make it 92-90 in the waning seconds. Tau was called for flagrant foul then, however, and 3 points from Macijauskas sealed the final 95-90 victory for Olympiacos.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Stelios Kyriakoglou, Athens