Olympiacos fights back to knock off Zenit
Olympiacos Piraeus kept alive its slim playoffs hopes - and gave other teams fighting for the post-season a beam of light - as it came back from 17 points down to knock off Zenit St Petersburg 75-61 at home. Vassilis Spanoulis led the way with a season-high 16 points, as Olympiacos allowed just 5 points in the fourth quarter and 33 in the final 30 minutes to move to 13-16 with its second straight win. While Spanoulis scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter, Sasha Vezenkov and Shaquielle McKissic carried the load in the third quarter and both finished with 13 points. Zenit, which led 22-39 late in the second quarter and 30-46 early in the third, dropped to 16-12 and is 3-6 in its last nine games as it fights to stay among the playoff ranks. Kevin Pangos scored 20 points with 7 assists while Alex Poythress had 11 points and Mateusz Ponitka chipped in 10 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
Kosta Koufos started the game with a dunk and Charles Jenkins’ three-pointer made it 5-0. Zenit answered with two three-pointers from Pangos, one from Ponitka and an Arturas Gudaitis three-point play for a 9-12 lead. Three straight Olympiacos turnovers resulted in two Pontika dunks and a third triple by Pangos, who added a fourth from deep in a 0-14 run to surge ahead 9-23. KC Rivers also knocked down a three-pointer as the lead grew and the guests were up 15-28 after 10 minutes. After Austin Hollins’ layup opened the second quarter for Zenit, Spanoulis hit a triple for the hosts. But the guests’ three-point bombing continued with Hollins draining a three-pointer and Dmitry Khvostov knocking down two from deep as the advantage grew to 22-39. Olympiacos managed to slow down the Zenit offense and put together an 8-0 run to pull within 30-39 and was down just 30-41 at the break.
Zenit scored the first five points of the second half to extend the margin to 30-46. McKissic stepped up with 5 points and Vezenkov knocked down two three-pointers, and Olympiacos was suddenly down just 45-50. Vezenkov drained another triple to cut the deficit to 50-52 only for Pangos to punch back immediately from long range. McKissic and Vezenkov both added another score and the hosts were down just 54-56 after 30 minutes. The momentum continued in the fourth quarter and Spanoulis scored two baskets to push Olympiacos ahead 60-56. Poythress converted a three-point play to finally get Zenit on the board after nearly 4 minutes. But Spanoulis added two three-pointers and Olympiacos was up 70-61 with 4 minutes to play. A turnover by Pangos resulted in a Vezenkov layup and a 72-61 lead with under 3 minutes left. Zenit just could not hit any three-pointers in the fourth quarter and did not close the gap at all.
Road unkind to Zenit
Zenit played its last four games at home with its last road game coming on February 5. The Russian side came to Greece with nine road victories - tying for the second-most in the EuroLeague. But Xavi Pascual’s team has now lost five of its last six games away from home.
Taking care of the ball
While Olympiacos will get a lot of praise for giving up just 33 points in the final 30 minutes, another huge key was the hosts taking care of the ball in the second half. Olympiacos committed just two turnovers in the final 20 minutes after losing it nine times in the first half.
Zenit missed all nine of its three-point attempts in the fourth quarter to finish at 31.4% from long range. Olympiacos out-shot Zenit 54.5% to 46.2% on 2-pointers as well as 12-of-14 to 4-of-6 from the foul line.
Olympiacos will head on the road next week as it faces ALBA Berlin on Thursday March 18. Zenit’s next game will be a huge one at home as it welcomes TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz the same evening.
Friday, March 12, 2021