A battle at the bottom of Group C turned into a thriller on Thursday as Olympiacos survived for a 96-95 overtime victory against Alba Berlin thanks to 2 free throws by Panagiotis Liadelis with 17 seconds left. Newly-signed guard Charles Evans had sent the game to overtime for Alba, and the guests led in the extra period by 5 points before Olympiacs rallied to win. Liadelis led the winners with 19 points, while Giorgos Diamantopoulos added 16, Dalibor Bagaric 14 and Goran Jurak 12. Olympiacos won its second straight game for a 2-5 record at the midpoint of the season, while Alba fell to 1-6. Jovo Stanojevic led the guests with 23 points, while John Best had 22 in 29 minutes, Vladimer Petrovic 21 and DeJuan Collins 11.
Alba was really aggressive in taking an early 2-9 lead over the hosts, but the Reds woke up and quickly cut the deficit to a point, 10-11. Best was the sharp shooter for Alba, scoring 6 points in the beginning, but Olympiacos used its inside strength, with Bagaric scoring 4 points. Jurak gave important help to Bagaric, while shooting guards Diamantopoulos and Liadelis assured a 16-12 lead for the Reds. On the other hand, Best got some support from Stanojevic and Teoman Ozturk, while Petrovic connected for a basket, too. The first period was a real battle with both teams fighting for domination. Finally Olympiakos took a one-point lead, 22-21, at the end of the quarter.
When the second period started, Olympiakos tried hit Alba with fastbreaks. With Diamantopoulos and Liadelis running, the Reds became effective and spectacular, racing to a 32-23 lead with Ruben Wolkowyski finishing the fast break. But Alba had the answer, as Collins and Petrovic managed to cut the margin down to one basket, 32-30 midway the second period. Not wanting to be left behind in last place in Group C, neither team let the other escape for long. Jurak and Boris Gorenc were particularly effective in helping Olympiacos get breathing space at 40-34, but Alba was there again. With Petrovic and Best in form, the Germans closed to within 40-38 late in the quarter. Neither team's defense could claim to have done the job yet, but the crowd was certainly entertained with a 46-44 score on the board at halftime.
Olympiacos defended more seriously and Gorenc handled the scoring in an 8-2 run to start the third quarter. But Best answered with his third three-pointer, cutting the deficit to 54-49. Christos Harissis matched him for the Reds, and soon Milan Tomic added his shot from the arc for a 60-51 home lead. Now, Stanojevic shook the rim with a dunk for Alba, which showed its bench strength, too, as Stefano Garris, Charles Evans and Szymon Szewczyk made their presence felt with points that closed the gap again to 60-58. Alba fought until the end of third quarter, as the Germans showed great balance between the front line and the perimeter, as Olympiacos clung to a 63-62 lead after 30 minutes.
Best won't forget Athens soon, and vice-versa. Alba's scorer landed his fourth three-pointer and added a free throw to put Alba in front 65-68 early in the fourth quarter. Harissis tied it from the arc, 68-68, for the Reds, who soon saw Diamantopoulos and Liadelis take the law into their hands with consecutive layups for a six-point lead, 74-68. But Alba hadn't said its last word! Stanojevic and Best were fantastic in tying the game at 78-78, but Best then fouled out in the most crucial moment of the game. Szewczyk came off the bench to make it 79-81 with a three-pointer, but Bagaric was still there to tie the game with 2 free throws. Then, with a layup and and a block against Szewczyk, Bagaric assured a 85-85 tie. Diamantopoulos hit both free throws to give the Reds a 87-85 lead with 1 minute to go. The excitement peaked when a Szewczyk got a loose ball and passed to Evans, who was fouled and sent the game to overtime with 2 free throws, 87-87!
With Best on the bench with five fouls, Petrovic came with a big three and Stanojevic put back a crucial offensive rebound as Alba took an early 87-92 lead in overtime. But Wolkowyski answered with a triple and Diamantopoulos scored 2 points, tying the game at 92-92 after 43 minutes. The drama was going to the end as Collins drove for a dunk with 1 minute left. Tomic tied with free throws and then the Reds got the ball back on a turnover by Szewczyk after a defensive rebound. Liadelis took the ball and missed a layup, but was fouled in the process, making both free throws with 17 seconds for 96-95. That was meant to be the final score, since Collins missed his three-point attempt and Tomic grabbed the defensive rebound, ending a thriller.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Kostas Sotiriou, Athens