The first valuable road win of the Top 16 went to none other than Olympiacos, which invaded Belgrade, Serbia to defeat host Partizan 84-92 in the Group E opener for both teams on Wednesday. Olympiacos is 1-0 and tied with CSKA Moscow, which had won earlier, while Partizan is 1-0 alongside DKV Joventut. Partizan scored the opening basket, but never saw the lead the rest of the game as Olympiacos scored the next 10 points and never had to really look over its shoulder while racing to victory. The Reds finished the first quarter ahead 19-30 after making an impressive 6 of 7 three-pointers and never saw Partizan get closer than 8 points away the rest of the game. Scoonie Penn was the best scorer of the game with 27 points as he hit 3 of 4 triples in that first quarter. Sofoklis Schortsanitis helped with 18 points off the bench for the winners. Alex Acker added 14 points and Andrija Zizic 10 plus 8 rebounds. For Partizan, Vonteego Cummings had 25 points, Predrag Drobnjak added 21, Milenko Tepic 11 and Dusan Kecman 10.
Kosta Perovic opened the scoring with a huge dunk for Partizan but Penn replied fast with a jumper and a triple for a 2-5 Olympiacos lead. Partizan started without clear options on offense, while Zizic lifted a hook and Ioannis Bouroussis drilled a shot from the arc as the Reds roared ahead 2-10. The scoreboard showed the first double-digit lead when Alex Acker slammed at 2-12, forcing Partizan's first timeout. Drobnjak finally scored again for the hosts but Acker drilled his team's third triple in response. Drobnjak matched it from downtown, and Partizan seemed to even out as Nikola Pekovic added a basket off a smooth move in the paint and Milenko Tepic downed free throws that trimmed the difference to 14-19. Penn had seen enough, and reappeared with a triple, after which Olympiacos sent out a more physical team when Sofoklis Schortsanitis and Henry Domercant stepped on-court, even though Tepic scored free throws for Partizan. Soon, forward Sam Hoskin and guard Vrbica Stefanov made their Euroleague debuts with Olympiacos, but it was triples by Penn and Domercant, that sent the guests ahead by a new double-digit lead, 19-30, after 10 minutes.
Penn opened the second quarter with yet another three - the seventh for Olympiacos already - but Petar Bozic replied in the same manner for Partizan. The defenses worked harder now, even though Zizic fought his way to three-point basket-plus-free throw that made it 22-37. The Reds controlled the tempo of the game as Partizan needed long attacks to find decent shots. Olympiacos was more aggressive offensively and attacked the basket quickly. Despite that fact, the scoring slowed as a pair of free throws by Schortsanitis made it 25-41 midway through the quarter. Partizan kept trying to tighten its defense now, but on offense the hosts found too tough to penetrate against the Reds. Penn found his way to the bottom of the net, however, and Schortsanitis dunked again for a 28-48 Olympiacos advantage. Cummings tried to keep the hosts alive but Schortsanitis showed his power again as the Partizan crowd watched in silence. In the last minute, Cummings and Penn traded free throws to send the game into halftime with Olympiacos in front by 34-52.
Olympiacos began the second half with a 2-3 zone defense and Schortsanitis scoring a pair of free throws. Drobnjak did the same for Partizan but Schortsanitis was inspired in the first minutes of the third quarter, scoring and defending everywhere. Partizan only found the way to the basket through free throws while on the other side, Zizic hit a jumper and Acker joined the party with a baseline dunk to make it 38-61. Drobnjak was the most reliable weapon for Partizan, scoring a basket-plus-free throw, but Christos Harissis matched him with a shot from the corner for Olympiacos. Tepic and Cummings combined for 5 straight Partizan points that Acker answered with his team's ninth triple for a 48-67 scoreboard. Cummings took Drobnjak's place as the main offensive alternative for the hosts and Tepic joined him with more free throws, but Olympiacos got a pair from Panagiotis Vassilopoulos to take a solid 53-70 lead after 30 minutes.
Defenses pushed hard for 2 scoreless minutes at the start of the last quarter, until Kecman hit a triple from the corner. Drobnjak followed with his own bucket, giving Partizan some breathing room and some hope. Vasilopoulos killed both, however, scoring to keep Olympiacos out of reach. Bouroussis and Penn combined for 5 fast points for the visitors as Kecman and Drobnjak did the same for Partizan, so with 5 minutes to go, Olympiacos kept dominating by 17 points, 63-80. At this point, the defenses disappeared again in favor of fast plays looking for quick scores as Cummings downed 5 for the hosts. Still, with 2 minutes left, the Reds dominated by 71-82 and both teams started to consider the point difference. Cummings did his team a service by mounting one last rally, so that even when Olympiacos walked off with a clear victory, Partizan was able to keep the difference to 84-92, one of the lowest differences of the game.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007