The first game of the 2002-03 season of the Euroleague on Wednesday was decided in favor of another road warrior as Olympiacos of Greece toppled Idea Slask 72-91 on its home court in Wroclaw, Poland to join the early leaders Group C. Scoring distribution was one key for Olympiacos as newcomers Christos Harissis and DeMarco Johnson led the winners with 15 points each. Milan Tomic added 13 and Nenad Markovic 11 for the Reds. Zone defenses had also a major role, but the Reds always knew how to beat it in the end, making 10 three-pointers to just 5 for the home team. Still, Olympiacos could not shake Slask until the fourth quarter. A barrage of threes from Harissis finally wore down the home team, which was led in scoring by Andrius Giedraitis with 18 points. Dominik Tomczyk added 13 and Danny Lewis 12 for Slask. The Reds are therefore, the first team to climb to 1-0 while Slask starts with 0-1.
For the record, the first basket of the Euroleague 2002-03 season was scored by Alexis Amandatis-Savrosenko. It wasn't long before Olympaikos was wracking up more and more baskets, in what would be a high with Veljko Mrsic getting through the Idea defense for several points in the early going. DeMarco Johnson joined the act and the combination of inside-outside possibilities immediately put Slask's defens to the test. The Reds kept scoring a little more, even though Giedraitus was answering for the home crowd such that the entertainment was the main feature as the Olympiakos got ahead 23-26 at the end of 10 minutes. There the scored stayed in the second quarter for awhile until Danny Lewis nailed a three-pointer, getting the same in reply from Milan Tomic. Olympiacos managed to maintain a small lead thanks mainly to Nikagbatse, who scored 9 points in the period, including a three-pointer that made it 31-38. It was then when Idea Slask reacted thanks to a three-point play by Randy Holcomb, followed by a spectacular penetration by Andrius Giedraitis , which made the score 36-38. The Slask fans that packed the arena were getting excited. Tomic's ice cooled things down, however, with another three that sparked a 0-5 run for the guests, after two free throws by Nenad Markovic. With Olympiacos was winning the battle under the boards, too, Slask coach Zvi Sherf called timeout to try to stop the visitors' momentum. Just before the break, two free throws by Dominik Tomczyk pulled Slask within 38-43.
The second half started with Slask making an 8-2, half by Tomczyk, and taking the lead at 46-45, but Ignacio de Miguel tied on the following play with a free throw that sent Richard Lugo off with his fourth foul. Back and forth they went, but when Slask kept insisiting and missing from the arc, Olympiacos inched slowly ahead, 49-54 in minute 16, forcing another Slask timeout. DeMarco Johnson passed three defenders to make it 49-56, another three by Olympiacos put the 51-59 on the scorebaord thanks to a tight zone defense that forced bad shots for Idea Slask. Harissis hit the maximum lead for the guests at 51-64 with yet another three. After 30 minutes, the score was 56-67, and things looked good for the guests.
Giedraitis broke the three-pointers spell early in the fourth by hitting from the side on the 24-second buzzer for 59-67. The Slask fans got back into it when Tomczyk joined the party with another three that cut the deficit to just 5 points, 62-67. The three-point shootout continued with Harissis another and Giedraitis replying in kind as the score hit 67-72. No matter what Slask did defensively, changing to a zone that made offense difficult for Olympiacos, the shots of the Reds always ended in the basket, with Harissis making it 67-77 with yet another long-range basket. Johnson was unstoppable under the boards, while Lewis tried to keep his team scoring as the totals climbed to 72-82. The Reds defense just kept stopping Slask and the margine just kept rising until the closing run by Olympiacos finished at 5-19 and the first winner of the season was clear.
Wednesday, October 9, 2002
Andrzej Jaworski, Wroclaw