Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv shook off ongoing injury problems to keep its momentum intact with a solid 67-75 road win over Olympiacos in Pireaus, Greece to open Top 16, Group F for both teams. Maccabi and Real Madrid are tied 1-0 atop the group now, while Olympiacos joins Zalgiris at 0-1. A scoring blast after halftime established Maccabi's first double-digit lead of the night, and the guests nursed that margin all the way to the victory. Maccabi won despite missing all-Euroleague center Nikola Vujcic once again and seeing another frontcourt starter, Marcus Fizer, leave the game after 8 minutes due to a knee injury. Terence Morris, who was the Euroleague's January MVP, paced Maccabi with a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds. Yotam Halperin matched his scoring and dished 6 assists besides. Esteban Batista added 12 points of the bench for the winners. Olympiacos relied on 26 points from Lynn Greer, who also dished 5 assists. Marc Jackson added 14 points for the Reds while Loukas Mavrokefalides pulled 11 rebounds. Olympiacos suffered from 8-for-30 three-point shooting (26.6%)
Panagiotis Giannakis was welcomed by the home crowd in his Euroleague debut on the Olympiacos bench before the tip-off. Cummings stole the ball and run the floor for the game's first basket. Good ball movement resulted to a Greer' triple, 3-2. Halperin connected for 5 straight points, but Jackson found consecutive baskets for the hosts, too, as the scoreboard stood now at 7-7. Olympiacos chose to execute from the perimeter to lose four three-pointers in the row; Maccabi, on the other side, feed the ball inside and Fizer led the guests to 7-11. It was time for Greer to step up in order to nail a layup and a triple to put Olympiacos in front at 12-11. Fizer had to leave the court in the eighth minute due to a knee injury. As a result, Maccabi had trouble defending inside and Olympiacos managed to build a 17-13 difference. However, the visitors reacted with Halperin and Alex Garcia to trim the difference to 17-16 after one quarter.
Olympiacos used some good team defense to make Maccabi struggle in the eraly second quarter, but the Reds couldn't take much advantage as they kept missing three-pointers. Halperin broke Maccabi's three-minute scoring silence with a good basket-plus-free throw and when he fed Batista for a nice basket, the guests were 20-19 ahead. Both teams were suddenly finding offensive solutions. Kostas Vassiliadis came off the bench to fire Olympiacos into the lead again on a triple at 24-23. Maccabi ran the open floor with Batista and Garcia, while Olympiacos was creating good opportunities on set offense to stay up by 28-27. Morris dunked the ball on an offensive board to offer the game's most impressive play yet and set the halftime scoreboard at 30-29.
A nice pick-and-roll by Halperin to Batista resulted in an easy layup, and then when Cummings chipped in a triple, Maccabi was ahead 30-34 shortly after the break. Vassiliadis answered back with a corner three-pointer, but Maccabi had the momentum now. Batista, Morris and David Bluthental filled a 0-7 run that put the guess ahead 33-41 and silenced the crowd. After Jackson found room in the paint, big men Morris and Ioannis Bouroussis exchanged triples at 38-44. Olympiacos was encountering huge trouble in setting up its offense as Maccabi had strengthened its defense and the Reds were obliged to execute under big pressure. Instead, Halperin drove in the traffic for a double-digit difference at 40-50. Milos Teodosic nailed a triple in response for Olympiacos, but soon Bluthenthal answered back in the same way to make it 43-53. Garcia nailed another three-pointer for Maccabi for a 43-56 advantage before Greer sank the fourth consecutive triple between the teams in just 2 minutes. Maccabi finished a magnificent third quarter having scored as many points as they had did in the previous two, 29, to hold a 46-58 lead after 30 minutes.
The Reds forced Maccabi to go scoreless for the first 3 minutes, 30 seconds of the final quarter while Mavrokefalidis and Greer built a 6-0 run to get Olympiacos within 52-58. Maccabi reacted, though, with three-pointers from Garcia and Halperin at 64-55. Lukas Mavrokefalidis cut to the rim for a basket, but Morris copied him and then nailed the most crucial triple so far, vaulting Maccabi's lead to 58-69 with 3 minutes remaining. After an Olympiacos timeout, Jackson finished assists from Woods and Greer to bring Olympiacos closer at 62-69. After Morris found a basket for Maccabi, Greer drew fouls and found 5 easy points at the free-throw line for a 67-71 score with 46 seconds still to go. Olympiacos pressed full-court, but Maccabi kept its nerve and based on good passing found an easy layup by Halperin at 67-73. Garcia made a steal then and sealed Maccabi's big road win over Olympiacos to start the Top 16.
Thursday, February 14, 2008