Late heroics let Olympiacos clinch first place in style!
An epic battle at the top of Group D went down to the wire before Olympiacos Piraeus blasted off in the final minute to a 64-59 victory over visiting Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade that clinched first place for the Reds. Olympiacos improved to 8-1 while Zvezda fell to 5-4 but still holds second place in Group D. Olympiacos never led for more than a possession in the game's first 35 minutes as Boban Marjanovic dominated inside and Zvezda's defense did the rest. But with Kostas Sloukas scoring and dishing in the final quarter, the game entered the last 90 seconds tied. That's when Vasilis Spanoulis stepped up with the go-ahead triple, which Brent Petway soon followed with a killer from the corner to seal the deal for the hosts. Spanoulis scored 15 points to lead Olympiacos, while Oliver Lafayette added 11, Sloukas 9 and 5 assists. Marjanovic had 17 points and 13 rebounds for Zvezda, which also saw Luka Mitrovic score 11 and Nikola Kalinic 10. Zvezda was already qualified for the Top 16, but will now face Laboral Kutxa Vitoria at home in the last regular season game with second place in Group D on the line.
FIRST QUARTER: Marjanovic dominates out of the gate
Marjanovic started the scoring with an inside basket and a foul-line jumper before Vasileios Kavvadas finally got Olympiacos into the scoring column after almost 3 minutes. Marjanovic answered with a dunk that Branko Lazic followed with the game's first triple as Zvezda leapt in front, 2-9. Spanoulis got his first basket before Marjanovic added a free throw to make it 4-10. Bryant Dunston added 2 foul shots to the Olympiacos tally, but Marjanovic matched those with a put-back. When Sloukas finished a fastbreak, Marjanovic matched that, too, going over 10 points himself already. Marcus Williams passed long to Jaka Blazic for a 8-16 Zvezda advantage. Dunston dunked a third-chance basket that kept Olympiacos close, so that when Lafayette landed his team's first three-pointer, it left a 13-16 scoreboard after 10 minutes.
SECOND QUARTER: Reds rally, but Zvezda retains lead
Tremmel Darden raced for a fastbreak dunk to open the second quarter for Olympiacos. After a quiet spell, Maik Zirbes restored Zvezda's three-point lead, 15-18. Darden then outdid his previous dunk by exploding for a slam in traffic. Mitrovic answered by ripping an offensive rebound and hooking it back in. When Marjanovic resumed his scoring with a turnaround one-hander, Zvezda's lead was up to 17-22. Spanoulis took a point back at the free throw line, but Mitrovic upped the difference with a running hook. Othello Hunter broke a drought with a basket that was followed, after a timeout, by a triple from Dimitrios Agravanis, getting Olympiacos within 22-24. Spanoulis hit 2 free throws to tie, while Zirbes made 1 of 2 to give Zvezda the lead back. It lasted only until Spanoulis blasted a triple from the corner for the first Olympiacos advantage of the game. But that only lasted seconds as Nemanja Dangubic answered from the same distance at the other end to finish the half with Zvezda still ahead, 27-28.
THIRD QUARTER: Shooters keep Zvezda in front
Spanoulis opened the second-half scoring with a step-back jumper that Marjanovic matched under the opposite basket, for two quick lead changes. Marjanovic added a free throw at 29-31 before Marko Tejic blocked a shot by Hunter and Dangubic fired in a jumper at the other end. After a timeout, Hunter steadied Olympiacos with free throws, and soon Agravanis finished a fastbreak to tie 33-33. Dueling triples by Dangubic and Lafayette got the crowd buzzing, but Blazic hit his own from the corner, keeping Zvezda ahead 36-39. Lafayette's lane jumper was answered by 1 of 2 free throws by Marjanovic before Mitrovic kept the triples flowing for a 38-43 Zvezda lead. Matt Lojeski went to the free throw line for Olympiacos to get his first 2 points after six games out due to injury. Mitrovic and Sloukas were perfect at the line, too, but Kalinic hit another shot from the arc as Zvezda took its highest lead since the first quarter, 42-48, after 30 minutes.
FOURTH QUARTER: Reds step up when it counts at finish
Lafayette beat the shot clock with a long-range bomb to open the fourth quarter, but couldn't complete the four-point play at the foul line. Still, when Spanoulis fed Hunter for a layup, the Reds were within 47-48. Again, however, Zvezda protected the lead, as Mitrovic dropped his own layup. Petway came out of nowhere to slam a miss by Spanoulis. Kalinic answered in the paint, but Spanouls scored his own layup and then Sloukas slashed for another as Olympiacos took the lead back, 53-52. Williams came off bench to put Zvezda back in front, then Sloukas served up an alley-oop pass that Petway rammed home. At the other end, though, Kalinic buried a swish from way downtown, so when Sloukas drove for another layup, it was all tied up, 57-57, with under 3 minutes left. After both teams missed chances to go ahead, Spanoulis stepped up to blast a go-ahead three with 1:27 left. A scoreless minute after that ended with Petway doing the same, drilling a corner swish as the shot-clock expired to make it 63-57 with 18 seconds left and send Olympiacos forward to a win that clinched first place in Group D.
Friday, December 12, 2014