Olympiacos Piraeus won its second straight on the road to emerge as a contender for the top spot in Group F by beating Zalgiris Kaunas 52-61 on Thursday night. The Reds improved to 3-2 in the Top 16 and will advance to the Quarterfinal Playoffs with a win next week over Real Madrid. Meanwhile Zalgirs, which picked a bad time for its worst offensive effort of the season, dropped to 1-4 and has no hope of reaching the next stage. The Lithuanian champs held modest leads for much of the game, but folded down the stretch. Zalgiris finished with 20 turnovers as well, while making just 4 of 20 three-point attempts. Olympiacos also had a rough time from downtown (5 for 24), but timely shooting from Rod Blakney and Lynn Greer and clutch free-throw shooting in the end sealed the win. Greer led the Reds with 14 points and 5 steals, Marc Jackson scored 11 and Ioannis Bourousis finished with 9 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Jonas Maciulis paced the hosts with 10 points, DeJuan Collins scored 9 and dished 5 assists and Paulius Jankunas added 8 points and 10 rebounds in defeat.
Zalgiris won the opening tip and attacked from the start, with Maciulis drawing a foul and sinking 2 free throws for the game’s first points. However Olympiacos responded with aggressive offense as Greer drove to the hoop and hit running jumper, to which Qyntel Woods added mid-range basket. Paulius Jankunas found room inside for an easy basket, but Zalgiris defense struggled against the guests and Rod Blakney took advantage of it as he posted a basket-plus-free-throw that pushed Olympiacos ahead 4-10. DeJuan Collins stepped up with a three-point play, but then both teams couldn‘t score for several minutes and exchanged a number of missed triples and turnovers until Greer found his shouting touch on the perimeter. Both teams continued to play chaotic as a pair of free throws by Collins fixed 9-13 on the scoreboard after the first 10 minutes.
The second quarter started somehow familiar: Both teams exchanged turnovers before Georgios Printezis dunked on the fastbreak. Olympiacos sandwiched Marko Popovic on the perimeter but he fed an open Goran Jurak for a three-pointer. Zalgiris turned to Jankunas, who made a put-back basket to which he added a follow-up slam and a long jumper that capped a 6-0 run for Zalgiris and pushed the hosts ahead 18-15. Olympiacos responded with aggressive offense by Marc Jackson, who made basket-plus-foul, which was fallowed by a fade-away jumper. Collins pushed the ball inside, where the athletic Maciulis went all the way with his trademark penetration to get three the hard way. N'Diaye Mamadou found room for open short-range jumper, but Ioannis Bourousis cut the visitors’ deficit to 25-23. Zalgiris started to use a half-court press and it paid off as Olympiacos struggled on offense. Still Zalgiris gifted the guests with an intentional foul by Marcus Brown with 3 seconds left before the break and Printezis converted it into 2 points that made it 28-27 at the half.
It took some time for the teams to get going in the second half, but after Blakney drove for an Olympiacos basket, Maciulis answered instantly in transition. Brown made only 1 of 2 free throws and it was his first point in the game, to which he added another pair of free throws on the next possession. Olympiacos committed a turnover as Woods violated the three seconds rule and Brown launched triple that extended the margin to 36-32. Brown’s next three-pointer attempt was too short, but Mamadou won the offensive glass and nailed a hook from the low post. The visitors continued collecting points from the line, while Zalgiris used sharpshooter Popovic, who connected from the outside the arc before Collins’s free throws set score at 43-37. Zukauskas, who played solid defense in the paint, overslept on Bourousis who was left alone under the basket and his dunk closed the third quarter at 43-39.
Milos Teodosic started the final quarter with bomb from downtown. Jankunas missed a layup on the fastbreak, but Collins grabbed the ball and put it in before Maciulis reached double digits in his scoring with a layup. Olympiacos, however, found its offensive rhythm as Kostas Vasiliadis knocked down a triple to which Teodosic added a layup, while Jackson’s basket capped a 7-0 run for Olympiacos. Zalgiris answered with pair of free throws from Popovic and a three-pointer by Brown as the hosts regained the lead, 52-49. Greer shined with his dribble skills and scored 2 points, to which he added a fastbreak layup off his own steal. Brown drove inside, but missed a difficult layup. Then Blakney hit a three that forced Zalgiris to call for timeout. However, the hosts return to the court wasn‘t followed by luck as Popovic made a childish mistake and turned the ball over and an unsportsmanlike foul committed by Maciulis buried Zalgiris’ hopes to win the game and advance to the next round as Olympiacos made its free throws for a 52-61 win.
Thursday, March 13, 2008