Alex Acker scored 25 points, including the game winning three-pointer, to lead Olympiacos to a crucial 79-75 win over Partizan Belgrade at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Piraeus, Greece, on Wednesday. The win sees the Reds improve to 2-2 in Group E and returns them to the forefront of the battle for a spot in the Quarterfinal Playoffs. Partizan meanwhile drops to 1-3 and sees its chances of survival start to slip away. The game was a tense back-and-forth affair, only decided in the final minutes. After Acker's final three put the Reds up, Vonteego Cummings and then Predrag Drobnjak had chances to force overtime, but it was not to be as Olympiacos celebrated the win. Acker drew 9 fouls and went 9-of-10 from the line for Olympiacos. Scoonie Penn posted 13 points and 4 assists, while Sam Hoskin, Henry Domercant and Ioannis Bourousis added 9 each. Bourousis also had 9 rebounds. Kosta Perovic finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds for Partizan, while drawing 12 fouls – the fourth most ever by a Euroleague player. Cummings scored 17 and Uros Tripkovic and Milenko Tepic had 10 each in defeat.
Olympiacos got the scoreboard rolling with an Acker triple, but Dusan Kecman responded with one of his own. After a couple of empty possessions, Panagiotis Vasilopoulos fed Bourousis for an alley-oop slam, which Cummings followed with a jumper. Olympiacos kept feeding Bourousis, who added 2 more points to his tally, yet Partizan responded and burst in front, 7-9, behind baskets by Tripkovic and Drobnjak. Andrija Zizic committed two early fouls and big Sofoklis Schortsanitis climbed off the bench to push the Reds to a 14-13 lead. Visiting Luka Bogdanovic misfired from beyond the arc, unlike Penn who nailed a triple for a 4-point advantage. Partizan was having trouble hitting the open shots, while Olympiacos kept scoring from the charity line – making 9-of-10 at that point. After Partizan coach Dusko Vujosevic called his first timeout, Cummings scored on a drive and converted the free throw that came with it to pull Partizan within 19-16. However, Olympiacos saved the last word for itself and through baskets by its perimeter tandem of Acker and Penn, widened the gap to 23-16 after 10 minutes of play.
The second quarter got underway with Vasilopoulos dishing another assist to Bourousis and Penn hitting two from the line. Drobnjak, Partizan’s leading scorer, committed back-to-back turnovers, keeping his side from making a comeback. Acker slashed to the basket to stretch the Reds' lead to double digits. Tepic drilled a three to provide a much-needed spark, yet Acker was on fire and answered back to restore a 31-21 advantage with 7 minutes left till halftime. Olympiacos was in the driver’s seat, even as Cummings unleashed a missile from downtown. However Schortsanitis and Bourousis found themselves in foul trouble and Olympiacos suddenly cooled off. The hosts went scoreless for more than 4 minutes, while Perovic capped a 0-8 run, which allowed Partizan to get within 31-29. Olympiacos was clearly out of rhythm offensively and coach Pini Gerhson was forced to call a timeout to regroup his charges. Hoskin, Acker and Penn failed to end the drought, yet Partizan’s Cummings did not punish Olympiacos. In the ensuing possession, silky shooting Domercant stepped up to score his first points of the night and exorcise the ghosts that were threatening the home side. At the other end, Perovic bricked a dunk and then coach Vujosevic was given a technical foul, which led to Penn pacing the Reds to a 37-29 lead at intermission.
Tripkovic came out for the second half on fire, knocking down a pair of morale-boosting triples. Olympiacos was struggling in its half-court sets and shooting an abysmal 33%, so it wasn’t long before Perovic tied the game at 40 with 5 points in a row. Reserve Sam Hoskin scored on a jumper to restore a 2-point advantage for the hosts, but Cummings bettered him and Partizan jumped ahead 43-45 midway through the period. Olympiacos now looked demoralized and Partizan capitalized on some poor defending to push the margin to 45-52. Captain Manolis Papamakarios came off the bench to awaken his team and so he did, first finding Bourousis and then nailing a triple to tie it at 52-52 and bring the fans to their feet. However, Partizan saved the last word for itself and behind an open triple by Kecman, took a 54-55 lead with one quarter to go.
Zizic opened the quarter with a jumper, yet it was actually Perovic who was dominating inside. The 22-year old center picked up the scoring the slack and together with Drobnjak sparked Partizan to an 0-6 run. Olympiacos looked ready to throw in the towel. But Penn grabbed a defensive rebound and sent the ball to Acker, who was en route to finishing a fast break with authority. On his attempt to avoid giving up 2 easy points, Petar Bozic was committed an unsportsmanlike foul. Acker converted both free throws and in the subsequent possession Schortsanitis trimmed the lead to 59-61. Perovic bore offensive responsibility once again and scored on a layup, however Vasilopoulos – to this point a tour de force defensively, yet a non factor on the offensive end – hit a decisive triple to tie the game. Then Domercant joined the three-point party and restored the hosts lead. Perovic was unstoppable though and with a basket and a free throw made it 67-69 with less than 3 minutes left to play. Olympiacos kept its composure and managed to trigger a 6-0 run thanks to the trio of Hoskin, Domercant and Acker. Down the stretch, the experienced Drobnjak was able to turn it on in a big way, knocking down a triple and then Perovic found Cummings for a corner triple to tie the game at 75-75 with 36 seconds to go. However, Acker was not willing to let the victory slip away and unleashed a huge three-pointer over Topic to put the Reds in front. Cummings attempted to send the game to overtime, but Partizan had one more chance to stay alive. Perovic grabbed the offensive rebound and passed the ball to Drobnjak, yet the latter failed to launch the game-tying triple and Olympiacos came away victorious.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007