Winterthur FC Barcelona clinched first place in Group D of the Top 16 and with it homecourt advantage in the Quarterfinal Playoffs by rallying to beat Olympiacos 67-74 on the road in front of 11,123 fans at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Athens on Thursday. Barcelona stays perfect in Group D with a 5-0 record, while Olympiacos, already qualified for the playoff, dropped to 3-2 and will finish second in the group. Gianluca Basile led the winners with 19 points. Shammond Williams added 14 and Michalis Kakiouzis 13 for Barcelona. Quincy Lewis led Olympiacos with 16 points, Andrija Zizic added 12 while Manolis Papamakarios had 11 for the Reds, who led 54-35 midway through the third quarter. Barcelona improved its defense while Williams and Basile combined for 17 points in a 5-20 run which brought the guests back into the game. It all came down to the wire, but when Kakiouzis hit a critical three-pointer with 1 minute, 11 seconds left, Barcelona was on its way to a come-from-behind victory and first place!
Reds point guard Tyus Edney got an ovation from 11,123 fans at soldout Peace and Friendship Stadium before the tipoff, when he received award as Euroleague Basketball's MVP for February, as did soccer superstar Rivaldo, now playing for Olympiacos after having spent several seasons in Barcelona, when he arrived for the gajme. Another former Barcelona player, Zizic, opened the scoring for Olympiacos, but soon Rodrigo De la Fuente got open behind the arc to put the guests ahead 2-3. Lewis anwerwd back from downtown and then dished to Zizic, whose free throws made it 7-3. Jordi Trias and Edney exchanged layups, but Barcelona was already struggling with mistakes. The visitors were struggling to get near the basket as Olympiacos pressed on the perimeter and filled passing lanes. Lewis then rose for the first of his blocked shots. As a result Olympiacos raced ahead 13-5 with 6 points from Zizic already. Dennis Marconato and De la Fuente scored for Barcelona to cut the difference to 13-9. After Zizic scored inside again, Mikalis Kakiouzis drilled a three-pointer to keep Barcelona close, at 15-12. But that's when Lewis exploded for 5 consecutive points, to which Panagiotis Vassilopoulos added a triple for an 8-0 Olympiacos run to a 23-12 lead. Gianluca Basile chipped in a three-pointer for the guests, but Olympiacos was not finished as Manolis Papamakarios and Zizic combined on 5 more hosts to leave the Reds holding a 28-15 edge after 10 minutes.
The margin increased in the second quarter as Olympiacos kept forcing Barcelona to commit errors. Vassilopoulos scored inside and from the arc to make it 33-15. The energy of the Reds on the court was matched by their fans in the stands. Both, at that point, seemed unstoppable, but finally Kakiouzis and Gregor Fucka scored to slow things down at 33-19. When Kakiouzis added another of his layups, Barcelona had a 0-6 run. Shammond Williams connected on the fast break, Navarro from the line and Basile in the traffic to increase that streak to 11-0 and bring Barcelona as close as 33-26. Zizic broke the silence for Olympiacos after almost five minutes, but Barcelona was now clearly controlling the game’s tempo. However, Nikos Barlos and Lewis drilled a difficult fade-away-shot each and then the latter stole the ball to find an easy lay-up and forced Olympiacos 41-28 infront. Navarro and Fucka cooperation led the second to connect, Barlos answered immediately, but Williams was the man to save the last word and three-point-shot to finish at 43-33 after 20 minutes.
Both teams started the third quarter nervously missing on a pair of possessions each before Barlos canned a three-pointer to get Olympiacos going. Kakiouzis found the net from the baseline, but soon Papamakarios drilled the seventh triple for the Reds to make it 49-35. When Lewis slammed the ball on the fastbreak, Olympiacos was ahead 51-35 and Barcelona needed a timeout. Papamakarios nailed another triple from the corner to cap a 9-0 run to a 54-35 lead for Olympiacos. After that point, it was all Barca. Williams found the courage to score in traffic for the guests and then Basile copied him from the perimeter. With their morale boosted now, the guests got a triple from Williams and a basket by Kakiouzis that cut the difference to 56-44. Barcelona was now using a mixed defense that caused Olympiacos trouble, while Basile added another shot from outside to make it 56-46. To finish the quarter, Roger Grimau found the target from the arc to get Barcelona within single digits at 57-49 after 30 minutes.
Basile opened the final quarter with his patented three-pointer off the screen, making it 57-52. Papamakarios scored for Olympiacos, but Basile was now in the zone, hitting another triple that meant a 59-55 score. Lewis connected for the Reds, but it was clear that Barcelona had the momentum. Great passing game led to Marconato getting an easy layup. Edney made a difficult shot, but Grimau answered back with a triple and Ed Cota added another layup on the fastbreak to pull Barcelona within a single point, at 63-62. Grimau took the honor of giving Barcelona its first lead all game at 63-64. Edney searched and found a layup to but the Reds back ahead, 65-64, after which both teams found it difficult to send the ball in the net. Kakiouzis made 1 of 2 free throws to tie, and then proved the hero when his triple from the corner shot the guests in front, 65-68 lead with just 1:11 left to play. Basile kept his nerve with free throws to make it 65-70, and as Olympiacos kept missing three-pointers, Barcelona finally sealed a 67-74 win and first place in the group.
Thursday, March 23, 2006