Olympiacos edged Power Electronics Valencia 79-85
Olympiacos pulled out a tough win on the road against Power Electronics Valencia, 79-85, Thursday night at the Pabellon Fuente de San Luis in Spain to jump into first place in Group H of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16. Olympiacos, now at 3-1 with the victory, is tied atop the group with Fenerbahce Ulker. Valencia falls to 1-3 with the loss and now faces an uphill battle to make it to the Quarterfinal Playoffs. Olympiacos cemented the win on Vassilis Spanoulis’s 18 points and some clutch inside buckets by Rasho Nesterovic down the stretch of a tight game that had Valencia owning a 6-point lead in the third quarter after coming back from a 9-point deficit in the second. Nesterovic emerged with 16 points and 6 rebounds, while Ioannis Bourousis and Zoran Erceg scored 12 apiece and Milos Teodosic added 11. Valencia overcame a 29-47 rebound disadvantage to keep it close in the fourth quarter and actually led 71-67 with less than three minutes to go. But ultimately, Victor Claver’s and Dusko Savanovic’s 16 points each were not enough against the Reds. Rafa Martinez also scored 12 points in defeat, while Omar Cook added 11 and 5 assists. Olympiacos will travel to play Fenerbahce Ulker next week for first place in Istanbul, while Valencia faces another tough road challenge at Zalgiris Kaunas.
The fireworks started early with triples by Savanovic, Bourousis and Cook to open the scoring. Valencia came out aggressive in an attempt to challenge the potent Olympiacos backcourt early while keeping active on the boards with Robertas Javtokas sealing the lane. Claver was featured early on the hosts’ attack, and Savanovic attacked from different spots, as the Reds tried to control the tempo. A Serhiy Lishchuk layup off a pretty assist by Cook got Valencia up 12-9 and the stands roaring when the forward added a block on a Erceg layup attempt, but the visitors were able to stay close by repeatedly attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line, and finally pulled ahead, 16-14, on a Bourousis three-point play. Olympiacos stayed in the driver’s seat to end the quarter, dropping close-range shots by Nesterovic and Theo Papaloukas before Nando De Colo scored the quarter’s last basket on a layup, making it 17-20.
Valencia started the second period trying to guard Papaloukas with Claver, but Olympiacos executed well on the pick-and-roll and also got fast break points off feeds from its star playmaker. The hosts tried establishing a post presence with James Augustine on back-to-the-basket moves, but had a hard time finding good position in halfcourt sets, instead opting to push the ball up the court and finally finding some relief on back-to-back Claver and Martinez fast-break layups that made it 23-26. A Savanovic bucket closed the 8-0 run by the hosts before Olympiacos went to Loukas Mavrokefalides in the post and the big man delivered with a nice turnaround move to keep the home team at bay. Head coach Dusan Ivkovic’s crew kept pressing the home guards the rest of the way, forcing them out of sync and disrupting Valencia’s offense, while capitalizing on their counter attacks. Still, Power Electronics recovered thanks to a pair of inside buckets and a Martinez fast-break triple that finally tied the score at 34-34. The red-hot guard then followed with another three-pointer and, as tempers flared, Spanoulis answered from long range to end the quarter at a 37-37 standstill.
Starting where they left off, the hosts continued in an attack-mode mentality at the beginning of the second half. A Claver dunk and Savanovic three-pointer that bookended an Erceg deep shot quickly had Valencia up 42-40. Olympiacos did not pull back, however, and was able to turn it around thanks to another good stretch by Papaloukas that included a layup and fast-break assist before a high-striding Claver dunked off a steal that made it 48-46 and forced Oympiacos head coach Dusan Ivkovic to call timeout. The break did not shift momentum, as Valencia seemed to find a defensive niche that altered plenty of Olympiacos shots. The Reds were unable to set the tempo in the halfcourt game with even the open looks not falling. Still, the high-pressure game seemed destined to be decided in the trenches, and a hustle put-back by Bourousis was followed by a fast-break basket by Jamon Gordon to tighten things up again at 54-53. And tight they remained until the end of the quarter, as only Augustine was able to score from the line, even as Olympiacos crashed the offensive glass in search of a go-ahead basket but failed to convert. It was 55-53 at the end of three.
With every possession a potential game-changer, the game slowed down in the final quarter, as Olympiacos gave the driver’s keys to sure-handed Papaloukas to try to avoid Valencia’s heavy backcourt pressure. Clutch-performer Teodosic finally came through with his first basket of the game on a tough-as-nails long three-pointer off an inbounds play that pulled the Reds to a one-possession difference at 59-56, and Nesterovic followed suit to make it a 1-point affair with layup. When in doubt, Power Electronics went to Savanovic on back-to-the-basket moves and the forward delivered, giving his team a 3-point cushion before Teodosic again answered the bell with a gorgeous teardrop, 65-62, with less than six minutes to play. As the crowd heated up with the game on the line, so did both teams, producing high-caliber shots like Spanoulis’s spot-up triple that made it 69-67 and Nesterovic’s consecutive tap-ins for a 71-73 Olympiacos advantage with 2:44 left. Claver came through on a post-up before Papaloukas found Erceg underneath the basket with a beautiful assist and Nesterovic scored again to make it 73-77 with 90 ticks left on the clock. As the game went down to the wire, Cook and Spanoulis traded big-time triples to set the table for a Game-of-the-Week-worthy finish at 76-80 with 31 seconds to go. But Claver split a pair of free throws in crunch time while Erceg converted both on his trip, rendering Martinez’s following layup inconsequential, as the visitors iced the game from the line.
Thursday, February 17, 2011