Olympiacos survives on Mantaris buzzer beater
The champs remained undefeated, but had to use every second to do so. Vangelos Mantazris’s three-pointer at the buzzer proved to be the fifth – and final – lead change in the closing minute as Olympiacos Piraeus edged Stelmet Zielona Gora 79-77 in an instant classic at Peace and Friendship Stadium. The game seemed to be a historic win for the Polish champs after Christian Eyenga’s basket with 2.4 seconds remaining, but Mantzaris made sure his team’s fans went home happy. The Reds improved to 5-0 in Group C. Zielona Gora – despite a fantastic effort – slipped to 1-4. The hosts made 5 three without a miss in the last few minutes to come back from 8 down. Georgios Printezis, who made 2 of them, finished with 21 points and 7 rebounds. Euroleague MVP Vassilis Spanoulis tallied 18 points and 9 assists and Matt Lojeski netted 13 for the winners. Vladimir Dragicevic paced the Polish champs with 18 points and 12 rebounds, Aaron Cel scored 15 and Christian Eyenga 13 in defeat.
First quarter: Zielona Gora’s offensive boards give it big early lead
Printezis broke the ice with a free throw a minute into the game. Dragicevic dropped in a nifty pass to Eyenga for the visitors’ first points. Bryant Dunston was a force on defense with 3 blocks on Dragicevic on three separate possessions. The Stelmet big man finally scored, but Dunston matched him at the other end. A Lukasz Koszarek jumper put the visitors in front 5-8. Koszarek lobbed a brilliant all-oop pass the Eyenga, who finished in style with a two-handed jam. Koszarek penetrated for a reverse layup and a 5-point lead. Acie Law penetrated for his first points, but Craig Brackins stepped outside and padded the Zielona Gora lead. Law threw in a runner in the paint, but the momentum remained with the Polish champs. Kamil Chanas followed up his own miss and drew a foul for the ultimate Fantasy Challenge play. Dragicevic added a tip-in before Koszarek fed Dragicevic for a jumper on the buzzer that made it 11-22 through 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Cel comes alive to protect visitor’s cushion
Lojeski got some of the crowd involved with a mid-range jumper. Dunston rejected Dragicevic again, but the Zielona Gora big man was first to the ball and scored anyway. Law fed Printezis for a pair of baskets as the hosts closed the gap to 7. Erving Walker’s runner kept the visitors in control, 17-26. Aaron Cel heated up and matched a Brent Petway tip in with a hook and countered Stratos Perperoglou’s triple with one of his own. A pull-up baseline jumper by Walker made it 24-33 midway through the quarter. Perperoglou connected from downtown and a minute later Lojeski did the same as the gap started to shrink. A fearless Cel knocked in his second triple for the visitors and Walker drove and flicked in a shot off the glass. Dragicevic restored a double-digit edge at 29-40. Dunston took a pass from Spanoulis and scored at the basket. Eyenga’s efforts on the offensive glass went unrewarded. Spanoulis scored his first points of the game from the line, but Cel banked a shot it at the other end to put his team in front 33-42 at the break.
Third quarter: Reds rally to within 3, but Stemet continued to believe
Dragicevic and Printezis traded baskets to open the second half. Spanoulis drove for his first basket of the game, but Koszarek matched him. It appeared the momentum was turning the Reds’ way after a Lojeski three made it 40-48, but Brackins boosted Zielona Gora at the other end. Spanoulis free throws brought his side within 44-50 midway through the quarter. After he set Printezis up, a Spanoulis jumper made it a 4-point game and Zielona Gora rushed to take a timeout. Koszarek found Dragicevic on the ensuing play, but Spanoulis drove through the Zielona Gora defense. Lojeski made it a 3-point game with his third triple of the night. Marcin Sroka countered with a three and Dunston failed to convert an alley-oop layup. Cel scored again before a Dragicevic basket at the buzzer put the visitors up 55-63.
Fourth quarter: Five lead changes in the closing minute!
Dunston sank a short jumper, which proved to be the only points in the first two minutes of the quarter. Eyenga recovered his own blocked shot to put the lead back at 8. The scoreboard flashed 57-65 at the TV timeout with just under five minutes remaining. Printezis came up empty after a trip to the charity stripe, but the hosts’ defense kept them in it and Printezis made amends with a three-pointer. Vangelos Mantzaris further shrunk the deficit from the line to 62-65 with three minutes remaining. Eyenga showed that his team wasn’t going away with a wicked two-handed slam and after Printezis scored inside, Dragicevic scored on the offensive glass, However Spanoulis fired up the crowd with a clutch three to make it 67-69 with two minutes to go. Walker drove for a tough layup, but Printezis continued the Olympiacos comeback with another triple. Eyenga split free throws for a 70-72 edge with a minute to go. Spanoulis completed the comeback with a classic crossover dribble and pull-up three for the Reds’ first lead since the opening minute. Mantzaris split free throws with 15.9 seconds remaining. Koszarek inbounded the ball to Cel, who nailed a three in the corner with 12.9 seconds to go for a 74-75 lead. The drama never died as Spanoulis slalomed for a layin with 7.3 second showing and Zielona Gora counterattacked, which saw Eyenga’s runner drop in with 2.4 seconds left. But there was just enough time for Olympiacos to get off a final shot: Mantzaris connected at the buzzer to keep the Reds undefeated.
Friday, November 15, 2013