Olympiakos of Athens kept a hand on the steering wheel of its destiny in Group A tonight after boosting its record to 6-3 with a 91-75 home victory over visiting Alba Berlin, whose hopes for advancement are now almost mathematically nil. Berlin (3-6) was undermanned to begin with, as point guard Derrick Phelps had stayed home with injury, but by the time leading scorer Wendell Alexis left with five fouls midway through the third quarter, Olympiakos was almost in complete control. The Reds found a way to get their scoring ace, Alphonso Ford, revved up after a slow start. The results was a slowly increasing lead that exploded with repeated baskets by Ford and Risacher in the decisive minutes after halftime. Ford finished with 28 points to lead five Reds in double figures. Risacher and James Forrest added 14 each, Milan Tomic and Alexi Sevrosenko 11 each. Dejan Korutovic had 23 to lead Alba, while Alexis finished with 18 and Marko Pesic 14.
Playing for his injured partner Phelps too, Alexis did his best to keep Alba Berlin alive after a close first quarter. The veteran forward performed like a teenager, scoring 11 points in the first 10 minutes, while Ford was stuck at 6 points, due to the defense of Stefano Garris and Jorg Lutcke. Olympiakos found offensive solutions, however, and led the game during the whole first period to the end (20-17). James Forrest and Alexei Savrasenko scored 6 and 5 points respectively. On the other side, only Marco Pesic helped Alexis, scoring a three-pointer.
The second quarter belonged to Alphonso Ford, as the Euroleague scoring superstar added 9 points to his 6 from the first ten minutes. Still, five minutes before halftime, Dejan Koturovic had given the Germans a one-point lead 29-30 for the first time since the beginning of the game. Alexis - so good as old wine, someone said - helped his team escape by three points, 29-32. Then both Alexis and Forrest committed their third fouls, so when they were substituted, Olympiakos took the lead back and, with Ford's steady hand, managed to improve it to eight points, 44-36 late in the quarter before entering the lockerroom with a six-points lead, 44-38. Milan Tomic and Dimitris Papanikolaou scored 5 points each. Alexis had 18 points and Koturovic 6 points for Alba.
Rarely does one player have such a definitive affect in the Euroleague, but at the moment that Wendell Alexis was fouled out, six minutes before the end of the third quarter, the game was over for Alba Berlin. Olympiakos was hot in the first minutes, as Ford and Stefan Risacher pushed the lead to 15 points, 53-48, in the first two minutes after the half. But then when Alexis got hit with fifth foul, a suspect blocking call, Alba sank. Soon, with Milan Tomic organized the game perfectly, the Reds reached a 19-point lead against an Alexis-less Alba (63-44, three minutes before the end of the third period). Koturovic managed to cut the margin to 15 points (67-52), but the third quarter buzzer found Olympiakos leading the game by 17 points, 71-54. The handwriting was on the wall then, and it showed Olympiakos almost assured of advancing to the Top 16 and Alba in the opposite circumstance.
Wednesday, December 19, 2001