Zalgiris ended the home portion of its regular season by rolling past visiting Olympiacos 88-75 in Kaunas, Lithuania on Thursday to break their tie for fourth place in Group A. With its sixth victory in seven home games, Zalgiris now has an 8-5 record and is tied for third place with Tau Ceramica, its opponent in next week's regular season finale. Olympiacos dropped to 7-6 and fifth place but can still beat Zalgiris if they tie again due to its bigger victory margin when they played in Athens. This time, it was not much of a contest as Zalgiris staked double-digit leads in the first half and rarely saw them threatened thereafter. Five double-digit scorers for Zalgiris were led by Paulius Jankunas with 17 points. Jonas Maciulis and Marcus Brown scored 14 each, De Juan Collins and Goran Jurak 13 each. Olympiacos got a game-high 29 points from Lynn Greer, but only Loukas Mavrokefalides and Marc Jackson, with 10 points each, joined him in double figures. Olympiacos played again without its own Lithuanian scoring star, Arvydas Macijauskas, who attended the game in street clothes.
Masiulis got loose for a baseline dunk and a fastbreak layup to charge up the home fans. After Teodosic got Olympacos on the board, Jankunas slammed a fastbreak pass from Brown and reversed another from Collins to make it 8-4. Greer joined the Olympiacos scorers with a jumper but Maciulus with free throws and Jankunas from downtown kept pumping up the Zalgiris lead at 13-6. Olympiacos hit back with free throws by Jackson and a runaway dunk by Woods, but subs Goran Jurak and Dainius Salenga scored their first shots as Zalgiris stayed ahead 17-10. And although Greer drove and Giannis Bouroussis put back a rebound to trim the difference, Zalgiris had a hustling Jurak, whose second put-back and fastbreak layup settled the first-quarter score at 21-14.
Jackson and Teodosic cut into the lead again to start the second quarter, After Jurak scored again, Bouroussis buried a triple, then his offensive rebound led to Jackson making it 26-24, as close as Olympiacos had been all game until then. Brown had seen enough: he busted a triple from the wing and then canned free throws to keep the hosts up 31-24. Maciulis hit from the arc, too, for Zalgiris, but Jackson's inside basket kept Olympiacos within 34-28. After an intentional foul on Eurelijus Zukauskas turned into a free throws for Olympiacos, Zalgiris took timeout and got a boost from Maciulis, whose hustle basket made it 36-30. Brown then detonated another triple, and Collins capped the half with his own on the buzzer, proving the biggest Zalgiris lead yet, 42-32.
Zalgiris came out aggressively and started the second half with 4-0 run on a nice layup by Collins and free throws by Jankunas. In response, Woods boxed out in the paint and scored from under the basket while Greer drove for a layup. Zalgiris reacted soon as Brown launched a pair of long-distance rockets to which Collins added jumper and forced Olympiacos to call for a timeout at 54-39. Greer made only 1 of 2 free throws but Loukas Mavrokefalides made a put-back basket on the next possession, reducing the deficit to 55-42. Both teams kept exchanging free throws until Greer hit from the downtown but Collins responded with coast-to-coast layup and his own big triple. Zalgiris left Mavrokefalides open in the paint and his jumper from the free throw line left a 67-54 scoreboard after 30 minutes.
Jankunas got the crowd rocking to start the fourth quarter with triple from the left corner to which Maciulis added a free throw. Olympiacos had no problems a Zalgiris half-court press, nor did Woods in the apint, where he scored a layup-plus-free throw. Salenga replaced Maciulis and it paid off when he fired in a fade-away jumper. Jackson made free throws, but Marko Popovic answered with a show of his own, a triple followed by a two-point jumper that pushed Zalgiris ahead as much as 21 points, 80-59. Olympiacos tried to attack more on offense after a timeout, but on the defensive end left Zukauskas open for a dunk. Popovic remained sharp and his jumper gave huge 87-63 advantage to Zalgiris with little more then 3 minutes to go. Greer kept penetrating and hitting free throws for Olympiacos, but the visitors could not make a major dent in the lead as Zalgiris moved up further in the Group A standings.
Thursday, January 24, 2008