Olympiacos is headed to the Quarterfinal Playoffs! The Reds downed Real Madrid 72-63 at the end of an intense battle in front of a sold-out crowd at the Peace and Friendship Stadium on Thursday night to wrap up second place in Group F and a playoff matchup with last season’s runner-up, CSKA Moscow. In a game that was closer than the final score would indicate, Arvydas Macijauskas returned from injury to join Ioannis Bouroussis and Rod Blakney in scoring crucial fourth-quarter points as Olympiacos held off Madrid and eliminated the powerful team that was expected to compete for the title at the Final Four in its own city in May. Panagiotis Vassilopoulos led the Reds with 14 points and 6 rebounds, Milos Teodosic added 12 and the Top 16’s top scorer Lynn Greer and Qyntel Woods netted 9 apiece. Raul Lopez led Madrid with 16, Axel scored 12 and Louis Bullock 10. It was a special night for Olympiacos fans from the start as the heroes from the Olympiacos team that won the 1997 Euroleague title, Giorgos Siagalas, Panagiotis Fassoulas, Milan Tomic and coach Dusan Ivkovic were honored by Euroleague Basketball before the tip-off.
Both teams started the game with excellent passing games, creating inside baskets for Blagota Sekulic, Kerem Tunceri and Felipe Reyes that brought Real Madrid to 6-5, but immediately Vassilopoulos netted the three-pointer and dished to Bouroussis for a 10-6 Olympiacos lead. Alex Mumbru and Lopez tied it for the guests at 10-10. Both sides then missed some opportunities as the score remained unaltered before Qyntel Woods drove to the basket for a nice fade-away to make it 12-10. Woods was not finished yet and he stole the ball and smoothly ran from coast-to-coast for an easy layup before nailing a corner triple to get the crowd really noisy. However, Madrid reacted within seconds as Bullock and Lopez recorded back-to-back triples to allow Real stay as close as 17-16. Giorgos Printezis connected at the shot-clock buzzer and Sekulic found room for easy points as the score stood at 19-18 in favor of the hosts after one quarter.
Bullock and Marc Jackson exchanged triples, while the latter added a nice hook shot later on to help Olympiacos to 24-21. The hosts were now pressing on the perimeter and forcing Real to some bad decision making. Meanwhile a three-pointer by Teodosic capped an 8-0 spurt that made it 27-21. Hervelle tipped the ball in and Michalis Pelekanos created room for a drive to break Madrid’s scoring silence. The visitors were now putting the ball in the paint trying to take advantage of Lazaros Papadopoulos’s presence on court. Indeed Papadopoulos scored with a trademark pivot move to make it 29-27. Greer and Vassilopoulos connected from inside to increase Olympiacos’s difference to 33-27. Points from the line by Bullock cut it to 33-29 as both teams went to the lockers for halftime.
The third period opened in the same fashion as the previous; Madrid and Olympiacos sank one three-pointer each coming from Mumbru and Bouroussis, respectively. Vassilopoulos nailed another triple, but the guests found points from the line before consecutive baskets from Hervelle evened the score at 39-39. Bullock scored from the line after a technical foul and when Lopez fired in a triple, Real finished an incredible 0-10 run to sail in front 39-44. Bouroussis offered a superb shot-block to Hervelle’s effort and Vassilopoulos stepped up on the offensive end for Olympiacos for two baskets to trim it to 43-44. When Greer drove the base line for a nice off-the-glass layup, Olympiacos had recaptured the lead at 47-46. Papadopoulos netted 1 from the free-throw line to tie it, but Teodosic had the quarter’s last word with a jumper for a 49-47 Olympiacos lead.
A difficult lay-up by Charles Smith tied it at 49-49 and soon Papadopoulos scored on an offensive boards for a 49-51 Madrid lead. Teodosic stepped up for a big triple to make it 52-51 in favor of Olympiacos again. Both teams were now playing incredible defense to force to shots under extreme pressure and nearly to the shot-clock buzzer as the score was stuck for more than two minutes. Macijauskas stepped on the floor after his long absence to run for a good basket-plus-free throw for a 55-51 Olympiacos lead and allow the fans go crazy in the stands. Jake Tsakalidis was fed inside to increase it to 57-51 less than five minutes to the end. With just 2 seconds before the shot-clock sounded, Bouroussis bombed in a huge off-the-glass triple to make it 60-51 for the Reds, 3:30 to the end. Real was struggling to get connected before Hervelle sank 2 from the line and Lopez fired in a three-pointer to allow the guests stay in the game at 60-56. Blakney nailed a jumper for 62-56 and Greer was accurate from the charity stripe to make it 64-56 as Olympiacos was now the boss with less than a minute remaining. Blakney added a couple of free throws, too, and the fans were already loudly celebrating the Reds qualification to the Euroleague Quarterfinal Playoffs.
Thursday, March 20, 2008