Benetton Treviso escaped from the jail of Glyfada and stayed on the top of Group A by beating Olympiakos, 91-87, in a great basketball game Wednesday which confirmed the value of both teams. Now 5-2 in the fiercely competitive group and undefeated in Italy, Benetton was led by Tyus Edney with 25 points, but Marcelo Nicola and Denis Marconato scored the most important points of the game. In front of Dino Radja, who came to Glyfada to see his former team, Alphonso Ford came up big after his injury, scoring 31 points, but it was not enough for Olympiakos (4-3). The victory Benetton achieved is a historical one, as the very first win against a team from Athens, after 12 consecutive losses in 12 games in the road. Lucky number 13.
Sergei Chikalkin and Denis Marconato led Benetton to an early 10-16 lead, as the Russian shoting guard and the Italian center delivered 14 of those points. Benetton tried to run and took advantage of the defensive problems Olympiakos faced during the whole first quarter. Alphonso Ford, clearly affected by his injury, didn't manage to score his usual points. Despite the problems Olympiakos, led by James Forest, Theodore Papaloukas and Ignacio De Miguel, who has replaced Alexey Savrasenko, had a 9-0 run over three minutes, good enough to take the lead (19-16). Both teams had an excellent performance on offens that was evident in the 23-23 tie after 10 minutes.
The scenario of the game didn't change in the second quarter: They were two teams competing for the first place. Ford came alive now and led Olympiakos in offence, scoring 12 points and giving the Reds the opportunity to stay alive in the game. Benetton coach Mike D'Antoni used a lot of rotations to match up most of the Olympiakos players and to control the tempo of the game. Edney opened the margin to 3 points, 32-35, but Ford answered in the proper way (36-35) and later on he tied the game (40-40). The conclusion of the first half found once again Olympiakos and Benetton in a tie, 42-42, as Ford (12 points), Edney (11) and Chikalkin (11) were already battling each other in the scoring column.
Stefan Risacher (2 three-pointers and 1 free throw in 4 minutes) and Ignacio De Miguel opened the gap to 57-50 and 63-55 in favour of Olympiakos, but Italians didn't throw up their hands. D'Antoni called on Massimo Bulleri, who managed to change the tempo of the game and to find the open men. As result of that situation, Benetton got back in the game. Marcelo Nicola scored 2 three-pointers, the first to cut the margin to 63-58 and the second to tie the game again at 65-65 at the end of the third quarter. By the conclusion of the this period, both teams were in foul trouble situation: De Miguel and Savrasenko had already committed their fourth personals. Forrest, Nicola, Edney and Marconato have been called with three fouls each.
Great defense and experience gave Benetton the possibility to build a margin during the fourth quarter. DeMiguel was called with his fifth personal foul and Olympiakos lost his power in the paint. Benetton, led by Edney, Nicola and Garbajosa, went on a strong 6-14 run good enough to take a 10 points lead, 69-79. But Ford hadn't said his last word. The American "top gun" scored 8 consecutive points 2 three-pointers included) to cut the deficit to 82-86 with one minute and 37 seconds left. Dimitris Papanikolaou blocked Edney, but Benetton didn't panic. Denis Marconato made 2 for 2 free throws to re-open the gap to 82-89 and that was the key point to crown Benetton winner, 87-91, in a great basketball game.
Wednesday, December 5, 2001
Vassilis Skountis, Athens