Olympiacos Piraeus returned to the fight for a spot in the Quarterfinal Playoffs with an 82-87 win over Maccabi Elite on Thursday night at Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv. Down 10 in the fourth quarter, the Reds used a 2-12 rally to tie the game at 75-75 with less than four minutes remaining. It was still tied after a Terence Morris triple with less than a minute to go, but Maccabi ran out of points while Lynn Greer capped a 27-point, 6-assist performance with 4 free throws in the final minute to give Olympiacos a precious road win. Head coach Panagiotis Giannakis’s charges improved to 2-2 in Group F – the same record as Maccabi – but trail the Israeli champs in the race for second place since they lost the Top 16 opener at home to Maccabi by 8. Next week, Olympiacos visits Zalgiris Kaunasm which lost to Real Madrid earlier Thursday, while Maccabi travels to Madrid. The hosts were in control for most of the game, surging ahead on a hot shooting night from David Bluthenthal. Maccabi led by 10 midway through the second period and despite seeing the lead shrink to 50-44 at halftime, the hosts raced to 67-53 in the third quarter. But strong three-point shooting – Olympiacos was 11 for 22 from beyond the arc – helped Olympiacos outscore Maccabi 11-26 in the fourth quarter to earn the win. Marc Jackson added 15 points and Panagiotis Vasilopoulos scored 10 for the winners. Bluthenthal paced Maccabi with 19 points, big men Morris and Esteban Batista added 15 apiece and 10 and 8 rebounds, respectively, Will Bynum chipped in with 13 and Vonteego Cummings finished with 8 points and 7 assists for Maccabi.
Maccabi won the opening tip, but it was Olympiacos that scored first as Rod Blakney fed Vasilopoulos with an alley-oop pass. The Reds scored again before Batista got Maccabi on the scoreboard with a free throw and then a Greer three-pointer made it 1-7. Bluthenthal with a running hook and then back-to-back triples single-handedly brought the hosts back. Batista capped a 10-0 run with a bucket in the paint, but another Greer triple kept Olympiacos close as 13-12. Jackson came off the bench and scored the first time he touched the ball, but committed an offensive foul on the next trip down court. Cummings produced a steal and then capitalized with a three-pointer to make it 20-14. After another Jackson bucket, Morris added a three to increase the lead to 7. Blakney and Nikola Vujcic traded baskets before Greer completed a three-point play that made it 25-21 after 10 minutes.
Vujcic scored with a nifty baseline move to start the second period and Bynum soon made the advantage 8 before Jackson answered back from the line. The speed of the game picked up with successive baskets from Gerogios Printezis, Yotam Halperin, Jackson, Morris and Milos Teodosic, but Maccabi maintained a healthy lead. A pair of Bynum free throws made it a 10-point game midway through the period and a Morris offensive rebound and lay-in made it 43-31 before Jackson stepped up with a three and Kostas Vasiliadis added a jumper-plus-foul to keep the Reds going. Greer then scored in transition as Maccabi called timeout after its lead was cut to 45-39. But after the stoppage, Vasiliadis continued the Olympiacos charge with a three-pointer before Morris ended the hosts’ drought with a jumper. Still Jackson attacked the paint for a basket, but Cummings’s second triple of the night kept Maccabi ahead 50-44 at halftime.
Bluthenthal fired in a triple to get the second half underway, but Olympiacos answered in style as Qyntel Woods threw down an alley-oop slam assisted by Greer. However Bluthenthal bettered him with his fourth and fifth triples of the game as the lead reached double figures again. Greer hit back with 7 straight points – the last 2 coming from the line on an unsportsmanlike foul call on Batista. The Maccabi center had his revenge with a pair of baskets inside and 2 free throws that restored a 65-53 advantage. Morris added a long jumper to cap an 8-0 charge. Ioannis Bourousis and Blakney’s threes changed little as the third quarter drew to a close with Maccabi on top 71-61.
Vujcic was called for an unsportsmanlike foul on Jackson, who made 2 free throws to give the Reds renewed hope as the fourth quarter got underway. Morris answered back with 2 from the line as the game took a turn to the slower and more physical side. Bourousis fired in a three and after a scoreless minute-and-a-half, Vasilopoulos hit from downtown to get the Reds within 73-69. After Bynum posted 2 free throws for the hosts, Blakney drilled another Olympiacos triple as the deficit closed to 3. Then a Vasilopoulos basket made it a 1-point game and seconds later he added a free throw to complete a 2-12 run that tied the game at 75-75 with less than four minutes remaining. Vasilopoulos fouled out and Vujcic made a free throw to put Maccabi on top, but Printezis came in and scored on the offensive glass to give Olympiacos its first lead since the first quarter, 76-77. Vujcic tied it again from the line, but Printezis drilled a three to stun the local fans. Bynum penetrated for a quick basket only to see Greer match him. When Morris stepped up with a triple, it was tied again at 82-82 with less than a minute to go. After Greer free throws, Garcia missed from downtown. Greer then made it a two-possession game with clutch free throws with 20.5 seconds to go. When Bluthenthal’s three-pointer came up short, it signaled the end and the Olympiacos players began to celebrate.
Thursday, March 6, 2008