Olympiacos bounced back into the thick of the Group B race by thrashing Armani Jeans Milano 89-67 at home in Athnes on Wednesday. Olympiacos improved to 3-4 in the Group B standings and will share fifth place with either Maccabi Tel Aviv or Winterthur FCB after those teams play Thursday. Meanwhile, Armani Jeans dropped to 2-5 and ties with Prokom Trefl Sopot for seventh place. Nikos Hatzis led the winners with 16 points, Panagiotis Vasilopoulos added 14 on 3 of 4 three-pointers, Sofoklis Schortsianitis scored 13 points and grabbed 9 rebounds while Manolis Papamakarios bagged 10 points for Olympiacos. Giacomo Galanda had 15 points for Milano while Preston Shumpert added 12. Hatzis and Tyus Edney led Olympiacos to a 23-16 lead after 10 minutes, while Vasilopoulos had 9 points in the second quarter to preserve a 42-37 halftime margin. After that, Olympiacos found a go-to guy in a Schortsianitis, whose dunks helped boost the lead to 67-48 after 30 minutes, after which the Reds never looked back.
Shumpert may have opened the scoring for Milano, but Olympiacos built the first small margin with an 8-0 run in which Papamakarios and Nikos Barlos dropped three-pointers. Milano reacted mainly thanks to its offensive rebounds, 4 in as many minutes, but Edney was in fine form while keeping the hosts ahead 14-8. Both teams started to emphasize defense after a run-and-gun start. Olympiacos got a great block from Vassilopoulos as Shumpert tried to slam on a fastbreak. However, Shumpert connected with the basket to keep Milano close longer, but only until Hatzis made a three-point play and Edney a layup in traffic to boost the lead into double digits, 21-10. As the hosts kept running, Shumpert was the only guest to find the basket, getting 8 out of Milano's first 12 points. Fajardo and Galanda finally followed his footsteps as Milano cut the difference to 23-16 after one quarter.
Dusan Vukcevic, a former Olympiacos player, started the second quarter by extending Milano's run to 0-6. A triple by Vassilopoulos ended that trend after Olympiacos had gone more than 3 minutes without scoring. In the absence of injured center Joseph Blair, Milano focussed on defense in the paint as Massimo Bulleri scored his first points from the arc to make the score 26-23. Milano left the perimeter open, however, and paid with consecutive triples from Vassilopoulos and Hatzis that put the Reds up 32-23. Vassilopoulos was not done, adding a basket-plus-free throw for 34-23 before Galanda and Bulleri stepped up to lead a 0-8 run that got Milano within 34-28. Sven Schultze scored another 5 points in a row for the guests, but Hatzis answered in the same way. Olympiacos stayed in charge even though Milano managed to cut the margin to 42-37 at the half.
The second half copied the first, with Shumpert scoring and Papamakarios answering from downtown, after which a dunk by Schortsianitis had Olympiacos ahead 47-39. Papamakarios stepped up with another three-pointer to make it 50-41 as Milano had trouble setting up its offense. Olympiacos controlled the tempo and slowly built the lead to 57-42 before Schortsianitis exploded for 7 consecutive points that made things even more difficult for the visitors at 64-46. As Milano was forced to use Galanda at center, Reinaldas Seibutis added 4 more points in the paint for the hosts as the third quarter ended 67-48 with Milano only making 2 baskets among its 11 points since halftime.
Galanda connected from the arc, but soon Vassilopoulos and Christos Harissis combined on a 5-0 run to boost the margin to a new high, 74-51. Milano players looked disappointed and did not press on defense. For every basket that Milano scored, Olympiacos answered back with a pair, including 2 more three-pointers, again by Vassilopoulos and Harissis, to make it 80-53, the biggest difference recorded. Milano had to settle for the loss and baskets now came for easy for both teams, and nothing changed as Olympiacos sailed to an easier-than-expected 89-67 win, its third in four games at home.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Stelios Kyriakoglou, Athens