With a new-look roster for 2005, Olympiacos battled for 45 minutes to beat Cibona VIP 89-83 in overtime at home in Athens, Greece on Thursday. The Reds, who had three new players on the roster, improved to 2-7 in Group A while Cibona dropped to 5-4 and now ties Real Madrid for third place. Olympiacos survived a late rally which sent the game to overtime, but finally managed to register its second win of the season. Marque Perry was the man of the game with 36 points on 13-for-22 shooting for the winners. Two newcomers, Roger Mason Jr. and Robert Gulyas, added 20 and 14 points, respectively. Gulyas even broke the backboard at halftime, which delayed the start of the third period. For Cibona, which suffered from 4-for-25 three-point shooting, Andrija Zizic led the way with 28 points and 8 rebounds. Marko Popovic added 25 points on 7 of 8 two-pointers, 5 assists and a three-point play which sent the game to overtime for Cibona. But in the extra period, Perry scored 6 points in a 7-1 opening run that gave the Reds the lead for good.
With so the newcomers for Olympiacos and absences for Cibona, the two teams spent the early minutes trying to recognize each other. Mason, Gulyas and Boris Gorenc were the new Reds, while Cibona came to Greece without perimeter starters Branimir Longin and Vladimir Krstic. Cibona posted an early 3-7 lead, but Olympiacos answered with a three-point play by Gulyas and led even by 17-13. The first quarter with a tied score, 17-17, which looked pretty fair for both competitors.
The second period belonged Perry and Mason. The former improved his scoring to 15 points by halftime, while Mason saved his big shots for late in the quarter, including a jump shot and a spectacular fastbreak finish. With Cibona leading by 24-25 midway through the quarter, Olympiacos took off on a 14-5 run to close the half. Mason was up to 13 points by then. Cibona, which tried a zone defense as did Olympiacos, faced some clear defensive difficulties in guarding Mason. Neither did Cibona have a go-to guy established yet, which is why Olympiacos entered the locker room with a decent 37-29 lead.
The second half started with an hour delay due to a rim that Gulyas broke. Once on the floor, Cibona came back and took the lead on a three-pointer by Marko Popovic, closing a 0-9 run after Olympiacos had led by 41-33. Now, the visitors were in charge, 41-42, midway through the third quarter. Popovic and Zizic kept the hosts alive, while Mason provided more fireworks with a four-point play - a triple-plus-free throw - as the third period finished with a 53-53 tie.
Olympiacos got a huge push from Perry to start the final quarter. He had never stopped scoring, but now, pushed his total over 30 points as the only Olympiacos player with a connection to the basket. The Reds led by 9 points, 66-57 and then 71-64 with 3 minutes to go, but Cibona had not stopped trying. With Popovic in great condition and Zizic scoring significant points under the boards, the visitors managed to send the game to overtime at 75-75 on a three-point play by Popovic with a minute to go. Mason had the opportunity to win it in regulation time, but missed his three-point attempt.
Perry was unstoppable in the extra time, too, scoring 6 quick points to lift Olympiacos to a safe 82-76 lead. Vedran Morovic's triple got Cibona within 3 points at 82-79, as did a pair of Zizic free throws at 84-81, but then Mason finished his debut with a big triple that earned him long applause from the home crowd. Cibona only had a late layup left after that, so the Reds walked off with their second victory - both against Cibona - and hopes to win against more teams now.
Thursday, January 6, 2005
Kostas Sotiriou, Athens