Olympiakos of Piraeus beat Idea Slask Wroclaw 75-80 on the road Wednesday in Poland, and with its 7-3 record, maintains its good options to qualify for the Top 16 phase. The defeat effectively knocks the Polish champion (2-8) from any hope of advancement. Olympiakos led throughout the game, and the beginning of the final period seamed to have sealed the outcome with a 14-point lead, 50-64. But Slask came back with heart, encouraged by its fans, and made the game tight at the finish. With two free throws by Dominik Tomczyc and a three-pointer by Michael Hawkins, former Olympiakos player, Slask cut the deficit down to 62-66 with 3 minutes, 43 seconds to go, and after that even closer, to 67-69. But another three-pointer, this time by Milan Tomic, gave Olympiakos some important breathing room. That's because Hawkins replied with a three-point play for 70-72, but Alphonso Ford with four points and Tomic with another three-pointer stretched the lead to 72-79, ending the suspense.
Olympiakos led in Wroclaw for all 40 minutes thanks to two 8-0 runs at the start of the first and the third quarters. All outside players were efficient and the second half was dominated by the inside players. When the game was faster, Olympiakos extended the lead, so Slask tried to slow down the pace of the game. Theodoros Papaloukas handed off some great passes, Ford scored easy points after fastbreaks and Stephane Risacher added some middle distance shots.
Slask has had huge personel problems to deal with. Five of Slask players from the present roster entered the game without experience in the Euroleague and captain Maciej Zielinski played with an injury. But in the first half Slask was controlling the battle on the boards thanks to Rafal Bigus and Michael Wright. Both of Slask's inside players grabbed 12 rebounds in the first half, exactly the same as all of Olympiakos. Also Michael Hawkins played very well (9 points in the second quarter) and Slask closed the gap to just two points in the 18th minute (31-33).
In the third quarter Slask had huge problems on offence and Olympiakos controlled the game, particularly thanks to second chance shots. In the second quarter the guest team won the battle on the boards 25-8. Slask's inside players had some foul problems and the home team did not have enough power to stop Patrick Femerling and James Forrest. The start of the fourth quarter was dominated by defence, Olympiakos was still leading by around 10 points and the game seemed over. But in the last minutes both of Slask's Americans made some three-point plays and Slask again closed the gap to just two points. Then Ford showed what it means to be a real leader. He scored four consecutive points for Olympiakos following some offensive rebounds. Slask has lost eight consecutive games, but the fans were much more proud of the team then after the game against Charleroi.
Wednesday, January 9, 2002