Zvezda hands Olympiacos first home loss
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade left Peace and Friendship Stadium with a big road win, 72-76, over Olympiacos Piraeus on Thursday night. The visitors built a 10-point margin in the first quarter, but most of it evaporated before the break and the lead was 36-37 at halftime. A 3-13 run early in the third quarter granted Zvezda a 42-50 advantage that was reduced to 67-68 late in the fourth, but Olympiacos’s rally came up short as Ognjen Dobric capped a 0-6 spark with a dunk entering the last minute. The Serbian guard was Zvezda’s top scorer with 14 points, followed by Nikola Kalinic, who provided 12. The result snapped a three-game losing streak for Zvezda, which improved to 8-12. Sasha Vezenkov posted 20 points and 8 rebounds, while Kostas Sloukas scored 18 points for Olympiacos, which dropped to 12-8 after losing its first home game this season and third in a row overall.
Nate Wolters had a floater and a three-pointer in a 0-7 run that gave the visitors their first edge, 2-7. The Reds remained patient in offense and got some momentum through Vezenkov and Tyler Dorsey, but Zvezda found a weapon in Dobric, who contributed 7 points in a row to keep the guests in charge, 10-14. Things got worse for the hosts when Ognjen Kuzmic followed with a couple of free throws, Nikola Ivanovic hit a jumper, and Maik Zirbes provided an inside layup to build a double-digit lead, 10-20. Olympiacos reacted right after Sloukas stepped on the court. He first hit a three then fed Vezenkov for another bomb that fueled an 11-0 run to put his team up 21-20. Stefan Lazarevic, with a bucket off an offensive rebound, closed the first quarter at 21-22.
Vezenkov and Hassan Martin thanked Sloukas and Thomas Walkup for consecutive dishes by combining for 5 points that made it 26-22. Zvezda didn’t panic and increased its defensive effort, holding Olympiacos scoreless for 4 minutes and getting back on top, 26-29, behind a triple by Kalinic. Quincy Acy scored from deep to make it all square, 31-31, starting an exciting blow-exchanging period. Lazarevic and Aaron White seemed to boost the visitors for good, but a three-point play by Sloukas made it 36-37 at halftime.
Giannoulis Larentzakis and Dobric traded three-pointers right after the intermission to keep a tight score. Kuzmic then added a couple of free throws and Wolters finished a fastbreak with an uncontested layup to push Zvezda. Even though Vezenkov showed up from deep, the visitors kept exploiting Olympiacos turnovers to extend the margin to 42-50 halfway through the third quarter. Despite rotations and a timeout, the Reds struggled to match Zvezda’s physicality until Moustapha Fall took over inside. He had consecutive dunks inside to bring Olympiacos within 52-53, although a timely triple by Kalinic allowed Zvezda to stay ahead, 52-56, entering the last period.
Luka Mitrovic opened fire after the break, as the Reds needed a couple of minutes to score their first basket. Dobric showed up from behind the arc to grant the visitors a 54-61 margin. The Reds kept struggling on offense, and even though Sloukas came up with a free throw and a floater, the visitors managed to stay calm when Kalinic replied with a turnaround jumper and Ivanovic stole a ball that made it 57-65 with 5 minutes remaining. Larentzakis and Sloukas tried to rescue Olympiacos with back-to-back three-point plays, right before Vezenkov put the game on the line, 65-66, with a floater. Kalinic and Fall exchanged baskets, as White added a baseline hook shot and Mitrovic beat Fall in the paint to get Zvezda to a 67-72 edge entering crunch time. The final decision came when Dobric took advantage of an uncontrolled rebound on Zvezda’s board to find a fastbreak dunk that finally buried Olympiacos with less than a minute to go.
Dobric sets the tone first, finishes the job for Zvezda
Ognjen Dobric displayed a valuable all-around performance against Olympiacos Piraeus. He finished with 14 points on 6-of-7 field goal shooting plus 4 assists and 2 steals for a total PIR of 18, his best this season. But, besides his good numbers, Dobric proved decisive both early and late in the game. He showed up midway through the first quarter with 7 points in a row to boost his team to a 10-20 lead and help the guests gain confidence. Then, early in the fourth, he drilled a three to hold his team ahead 54-61 and stop Olympiacos’s reaction and later sealed the outcome with a fastbreak dunk that made it 67-74 with 43 seconds to go.
Zvezda shows calm late despite previous narrow losses
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade displayed a remarkable calmness in this game that proved a key asset when the game went to the line late in the fourth quarter. Despite enjoying a double-digit margin, 10-20, in the first quarter, and going up 57-65 midway through the fourth, the visitors had to deal with several Olympiacos rallies that made it 67-68 with less than 3 minutes to play. Having lost the last three games by a combined difference of 7 points, many would have doubted or trembled at that point, but Zvezda didn’t do so. Buckets by Aaron White, Luka Mitrovic and Ognjen Dobric in those moments cooled the game down to seal the outcome entering the last minute.
Olympiacos suffers first loss at home
Olympiacos Piraeus came into this game with a 9-0 record at home this season but could not extend the winning streak. In addition to the absences of Kostas Papanikolau, Georgios Printezis and Shaquielle McKissic, the Reds also missed their fans, as the attending crowd was limited to 1,000 spectators because of COVID rules. That unusual scenario seemed to affect the home team, which allowed the second-most points by an opponent this season. Before this game, nobody except ALBA Berlin had scored more than 73 points at Peace and Friendship Stadium. Zvezda had 76 on this night, good enough to claim a valuable win.
Thursday, January 27, 2022