Olympiacos moved within a single victory of its first Final Four in a decade by again outlasting never-say-die Real Madrid 79-73 at home in Piraeus, Greece, to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five Quarterfinal Playoff series. Game 3 is next Tuesday in Madrid, to be follow on Thursday, if necessary, by Game 4. As in their opening-game victory, the Reds again nursed small leads before relying on big plays to seize victory from what was a close game down the stretch. at 70-69 with just over 3 minutes remaining, Nikola Vujcic found Georgios Printezis for one inside basket and scored another himself to give Olympiacos the cushion it needed to win. Lynn Greer led the winners with 21 points, including 3 of 6 three-point shooting. Printezis followed with 18 points and 6 rebounds, Vujcic with 14 points and Theodoros Papaloukas with 12. For Real Madrid, Felipe Reyes was the catalyst inside all game, with 23 points and 9 rebounds, while Louis Bullock rifled in 22 points from the perimeter. No other Madrid player scored more than 6. The Olympiacos bench proved the difference, however, as it outscored Madrid 45-18.
Raul Lopez scored off-balance to get Madrid's side of the scoreboard going after tipoff, but soon Yotam Halperin dished twice to Printezis for a 4-2 Olympiacos lead. Real Madrid was setting up its defense well, while at the other end Kennedy Winston and Reyes found good options to put the guests ahead 5-6. The Reds used side pick-and-rolls in order to feed the ball inside to Vujcic, who bore offensive responsibility with mixed results. Reyes, on the other hand, was more efficient as he helped Madrid regain the lead at 10-11. Olympiacos starter Jannero Pargo was called for his third personal foul after 6 minutes and replaced by Papaloukas. who joined Printezis in splitting a pair of baskets from the paint. Another substitute, big man Ioannis Bourousis, found 4 points at the free-throw line as Olympiacos stayed ahead 18-15 at the end of one quarter.
Bourousis and Reyes exchanged baskets to open the second quarter before Papaloukas used his height to post up Sergo Llull and make it 22-17. Reyes continued to prove unstoppable, though, as the Madrid captain kept on connecting, lastly on a nice jumper at 22-19. Bourousis answered with a three-pointer for the biggest lead yet, 25-19, but Reyes again answered for Madrid in close. Lopez then brought Madrid within 25-23 before Greer chipped in a triple to curb the visitors' enthusiasm. Bullock exploded then for three-pointer and a driving lay-up to forge a 30-30 tie. Olympiacos score only on 1 of 4 free throws then, allowing Bullock to give Madrid the lead at 31-32. Vujcic and Papaloukas had seen enough, however, and combined for 5 straight points to make it 36-32. Both teams were playing excellent defense not allowing open opportunities, but Madrid got the better of a late exchange of free throws to trim the difference to 38-36.
Greer created room for a three-pointer earlier in the second half, making it 41-37. The real bad news for Madrid was third fouls for both Reyes and Lopez, who were replaced. Printezis continued to shine, hitting another jumper for 43-37. Llull nailed a triple to keep Madrid from falling further gack, but Printezis connected on his third consecutive basket for a 47-40 lead. Olympiacos was now facing foul trouble, too, as Vasilopoulos, Bourousis and Halperin went to the bench with their third each, but Greer sent the difference into double digits with a corner triple at 50-40. The Olympiacos defense was even better, holding Madrid to just 3 points through 6 minutes of the third quarter. Vujcic scored on a nice pass by Papaloukas and then added free throws to make it 54-41. Reyes and Alex Mumbru stepped up for Madrid to with 5 points, but Olympiacos was finding solutions to the visitors' zone defense. Vujcic lobbed back-door for an alley-oop dunk by Josh Childress while Papaloukas bagged a three-pointer to keep the Reds ahead 59-49 after 30 minutes.
Alex Hervelle's tip-in set the tone at the start of the fourth quarter, although Greer beat the shot-clock buzzer to rebuild the 10-point Olympiacos margin. Madrid tightened its defense, while Reyes and Mumbru connected while drawing the third and fourth fouls of Papaloukas, who was substituted at 61-55, still 8 minutes to play. Without him, Olympiacos struggled to attack Madrid's zone, and when Mumbru scored in traffic, the guests were as close as 63-59. The fourth-quarter hero from Game 1, Vasilopoulos, offered Olympiacos a solution again from behind the arc, making it 66-59. Madrid did not panic, though, and kept dictating the fourth-quarter tempo. Bullock nailed a difficult, off-balance jumper and follwed it with a three-pointer in transition to cut it to 68-66. Olympiacos head coach Panagiotis Giannakis put Papaloukas back in and Greer scored for 70-66, but a confident Bullock blasted another triple for a one-point-game at 70-69. With every point worth gold, Vujcic made a brilliant pass to Printezis for another left-handed layup. Next, the veteran center canned a jump-hook in the paint, giving Olympiacos control again at 74-69 with 1 minute, 10 seconds to play. Vasilopoulos stole, although Printezis missed twice from the free-throw line, keeping Madrid alive. Bullock's free throws made it 74-71 with 28 seconds left, Vujcic made 1 of 2 at the line, then Vasilopoulos had a great rebound on a miss by Lopez, leading to free throws by Greer that meant a 77-71 score with 16 seconds remaining, enough for Olympiacos to capture a 2-0 lead before traveling to Madrid next week as the Quarterfinal best-of-five series moves to Spain.
Thursday, March 26, 2009