Olympiacos Piraeus fans have long known the greatness of Vassilis Spanoulis. But on Friday night the elder statesman brought out his Superman outfit once again to help carry the team to a comeback victory at home over Zenit St Petersburg.
Olympiacos trailed by 17 points in the second quarter and 16 points early in the third before completely shutting down Zenit’s offense and getting a 75-61 win to stay alive in the race for the playoffs. While the Olympiacos defense held Zenit to just 5 points in the fourth quarter, Spanoulis tallied 11 of his team-high 16 points in the final 10 minutes for the team’s second straight win.
Spanoulis picked up five points either side of the first two quarters and then watched as Shaquielle McKissic and Sasha Vezenkov carried the load in the third with seven and 11 points, respectively, to get the game close, 54-56.
The fourth quarter was time for Spanoulis. The 38-year-old hit two layups in the opening minutes as the hosts went up 60-56, and then nailed three-pointers to make it 63-59 and 70-61. Spanoulis would add one more free throw for a season-high 16 points in the big victory.
It was just the seventh time that Spanoulis has scored in double figures in 29 games this season as Father Time is slowly catching up with the Olympiacos legend. Even after his strong game, he is still averaging just 6.7 points - which will be the first time in his 15-year career that he has averaged under 10 points in a EuroLeague campaign. But Spanoulis knows what the game means to the club’s fans, who have seen him hoist the EuroLeague trophy twice for the Reds.
"We are Olympiacos and every time out we have to fight with pride - even if we might not go to the top eight - to represent this organization and the fans around us,” said Spanoulis, who had scored a total of 19 points in his previous five games.
Olympiacos coach Georgios Bartzokas was full of praise for his team’s showing over the final 30 minutes.
"I would like to congratulate our players and our team for this great effort over three quarters. It was a win that I really appreciate because I have a lot of respect for Zenit,” the coach said. “I tried to encourage the players to play with faith and without fear."
It definitely helps knowing that Spanoulis is there as a fearless leader.