Olympiacos held on to beat a pesky Real Madrid 88-79 to open their best-of-five Quarterfinal Playoffs series with a victory at the Peace and Friendship Stadium on Tuesday. Former Euroleague MVP Theo Papaloukas tied a playoff record and set a career-high with 13 assists off the bench to spark the Reds, who blew a huge second period lead before fighting off Madrid for the win in the final quarter. Game 2 of the series is set for Thursday evening also in Piraeus before heading to Madrid next week. Nikola Vujcic dominated early for the Reds, who built a double-digit lead in the first period and increased it to 46-28 in the second. Tomas Van den Spiegel and Raul Lopez scored key baskets in a 0-13 Madrid run that brought the visitors within 46-41 at halftime. Felipe Reyes, Lopez and Louis Bullock stretched the run to 20 unanswered points over the two halves to take the lead in the third period. Madrid would lead by as many as 6, but the game remained close from that point until late in the third period. Panagiotis Vasilopoulos shined at both ends in the fourth quarter with excellent defense and a pair of clutch three-pointers in a 10-3 push that gave the Reds an 80-71 lead with less than three minutes to play and paved the way to the victory. Vujcic and Lynn Greer paced Olympiacos with 19 points apiece, while Papaloukas posted 13 points and 13 assists – equaling Elmer Bennett’s eight-year old playoff record for assists. Bullock scored 15 as he entered Euroleague Basketball’s career scoring top 10. Reyes added 14 points and 7 rebounds and Lopez scored 11 in defeat.
Olympiacos started with an impressive 7-0 run thanks to points from Vujcic, Jannero Pargo and Josh Childress as Real Madrid failed to score on its four first possessions. Lopez and Bullock each nailed a three-pointer to help the guests regain their confidence at 7-6. Vujcic continued to rule in the paint connecting for 10 points of his own after five minutes of play to lead Olympiacos to a 13-8 edge. Yotam Halperin drove for an off-balance jumper, but soon Alex Mumbru ran the floor for an easy layup that made it 15-12. Halperin took over from Vujicic to chip in a triple and later on Childress copied him to increase the Reds’s lead to 21-14. Madrid was having trouble with the hosts’ plethora of offensive options. After feeding the ball inside in the beginning, Olympiacos started to punish the visitors from the perimeter. Lopez created room for a nice layup, but Vujcic proved his excellent shape once more by connecting from behind the arc to make it 24-16. The difference reached double digits for the first time when Giorgos Printezis dunked in traffic. Kennedy Winston scored on an offensive board, but Greer came in off the bench to hit a jumper for a 28-18 Olympiacos lead after one quarter.
Papaloukas opened fire with a three-pointer to make it 31-18. Bullock connected impressively, but Vujcic's class continued to prove unstoppable for the Madrid big men. When Papaloukas ran the fast break for a basket-plus-foul to make it 36-20, the home crowd got really excited and Madrid coach Joan Plaza had to call for a timeout. Van De Spiegel dunked after some nice Madrid ball movement, but Olympiacos kept adding to the margin as Papaloukas bagged another triple. Winston offered the play of the day with a monster slam in traffic plus free throw to cut it to 39-27 and most importantly offer Madrid a huge blast of confidence. The guests changed their defense to zone, but Lynn Greer countered with a triple for Olympiacos to make it 44-28. The biggest difference was recorded at 46-28 after free-throw points from Panagiotis Vasilopoulos. But then Real Madrid came back. The guests used a magnificent 13-point unanswered streak punctuated by baskets from Lopez and Van den Spiegel and a three-pointer from Axel Hervelle to cut it to 46-41. After 17 minutes of completely dictating the tempo, Olympiacos was forced to go to the lockers with a slight 46-41 edge as Real Madrid tightened its defense and created good opportunities on the offensive end for a great final three minutes in the second period.
Madrid returned from the halftime break in the fashion it finished the first. Reyes, Lopez and Bullock combined for another 0-9 run made the total streak 22 unanswered points between the two periods to move from 46-28 behind to 46-50 ahead. Olympiacos struggled to get on the board after suffering through a seven-minute scoring drought until Ioannis Bourousis nailed one from the charity stripe. Madrid was now in complete control as Bullock fired in another triple to make it 47-53. Papaloukas checked in as Olympiacos had obvious trouble to set up its offense. Childress and Greer increased the tempo and Georgios Printezis scored off an assist by Papaloukas to bring Olympiacos closer at 53-55. Bullock found an easy layup on the fast break, but Greer nailed a three-pointer and Childress connected from the baseline to tie the game at 58-58. Jeremiah Massey delivered, however Printezis buried a triple to take the lead back for Olympiacos, 61-60. Winston and Papaloukas exchanged baskets before Lopez saved the quarter's last word for a 63-64 Real edge.
Greer exploded for 5 straight points to make it 68-66 for Olympiacos. Bourousis dunked, but Pepe Santchez kept Madrid close at 70-68. Olympiacos head coach Panagiotis Giannakis was using Vasilopoulos to guard the guests' playmaker, either Lopez or Llull. Vasilopoulos beat the shot-clock buzzer for a big three-pointer to make it 73-68, but Hervelle stepped up to nail a triple for Madrid. Papaloukas dished to Vujcic for easy points. Bourousis blocked Hervelle and Vasilopoulos netted one more from downtown at the 24-buzzer for an 80-71 lead with less than three minutes to play. Reyes helped Madrid to cut it to 82-75 with 4 points of his own and Bullock penetrated to make it 82-77, one minute before the end. Vasilopoulos missed this time from the arc, but Printezis stole the ball and Olympiacos had now to protect a 5-point-margin with less than 40 seconds to the final. There was no time left for miracles for Real Madrid as Olympiacos grabbed a difficult win to open the best-of-five playoff series.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009