Olympiacos Piraeus put a upbeat end to 2005 with a valuable win against direct Group B rival Winterthur FC Barcelona at home by 80-68 on Thursday. The hosts dominated the situation from the early going and never looked back, as Barcelona struggled in trying to make up the differences. The win allows the Reds to improve their record to 4-4 for a share of fourth place in Group B, tied with Cibona, while Barcelona drops to 3-5 and is sixth. Andrija Zizic was the best scorer for the hosts with his 18 points against his ex-team and Tyus Edney added 16, making 6 of 8 two-point shots. For the guests, four players scored in double digits, led by Shammond Williams and his 17 points. Rodrigo De la Fuente posted 12 more for Barcelona, Gregor Fucka added 11 and Juan Carlos Navarro, back from injury, hit 10.
Olympiacos started the game focusing on defense with Nikos Barlos stealing twice and drawing an offensive charge on Barcelona. He also was the man to dish the first assist to allow Ziizic to get going and Olympiacos to start 4-0. Barcelona was struggling to get connected until Milos Vujanic popped a jumper more than 3 minutes after the tipoff. On offense, Olympiacos proved one-dimensional so far, scoring only inside. Still, when Edney and Zizic scored another pair of unanswered layups, Olympiacos was ahead 16-4. Zizic already had 10 of those points. Barcelona found offensive solutions with quicker attacks, so when Fucka finished a fastbreak, it was 16-8. But Zizic was determined to take revenge against his former club and proved unstoppable in the paint, accounting for 12 points in 10 minutes, after which the Reds led 23-12.
Fucka kept bearing offensive responsibility for Barcelona, but it was difficult for him to guard much heavier Sofoklis Schortsianitis on the other end. As a result Fucka and Schortsianitis exchanged three baskets each as the score reached 31-17. Rodrigo de la Fuente exploded for 5 points on a layup and a triple for the guests, that combination interrupted by Juan Carlos Navarro's first basket as Barcelona cut the margin to 31-24. The same Olympiacos zone that had worked in its big domestic derby victory over Panathinaikos did not now, so the hosts change to man-to-man immediately. After Barcelona got within 34-29, the first points from Manolis Papamakarios and Quincy Lewis filled a 5-0 run that boosted the Olympiacos edge to double digits again, 39-29. Shammond Williams made free throws to break that streak, but soon Christos Harissis answered back and the hosts took a commanding 44-31 advantage to the break. Barlos and Williams exchanged triples to open the second-half scoring. Barcelona now tightened its defense to force Olympiacos into consecutive shot-clock violations. Navarro cut the difference to 47-37, but good passing by the hosts led to Zizic's first basket since the first quarter. Edney scored a terrific layup in the traffic to beat the shot clock and send 10,000 home fans to their feet as the lead exploded again to 51-37. Navarro was now setting up the offense from the point for Barcelona but surprisingly that meant that he connected easier than when playing the shooting guard position. Reinaldas Seibutis came off the bench to stop Navarro, and so he did. However, De la Fuente was the real go-to guy for the visitors, scoring 5 consecutive points that made it 53-46. Olympiacos simply went to Edney for jumper on the buzzer that ended the third quarter with the ahead 57-46.
Panagiotis Vassilopoulos connected from the arc and in the paint to allow Olympiacos run away 62-46 to start the last quarter. Dennis Marconato nailed 2 nice jumpers and Williams a free throw to answer back for Barcelona, but then Schortsianitis dunked for the Reds. The crowd really got on its feet when Vassilopoulos finished a fastbreak with a basket-plus-flagrant foul to bring the score to 67-51 with 6 more minutes to play. Barcelona did not find the net from the perimeter no matter how wide open, but Fucka and Williams scored layups to make it 67-55. That inspired Barcelona not to give up and when Williams chipped in a three-pointer it was 69-60. After that, however, the guests couldn't hit from the arc, so when Lewis and Edney combined on 5 points the score went quickly up to 76-60. With the victory clear, both teams played for the final point difference just in case. Olympiacos had lost by 16 points in Spain and tried to overcome this margin, but Marconato and Navarro helped Barcelona avoid that. Olympiacos and its fans were more than happy, however, with their fourth in five games to go out of 2005 in style.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Stelios Kyriakoglou, Athens