Showing the same pride that got it to the Top 16, Adecco Asvel met its last chance for victory on Thursday and downed Olympiacos, a team still trying to get to the Final Four, 89-79 at home in Villeurbanne, France. Asvel took the lead for good with scoring burst late in the third quarter and slowly pulled away to the double-digit victory. As such, Asvel avoided a winless Top 16 and finished 1-5 in Group G. Olympiacos fell to 3-3, good for a second-place tie with Union Olimpija, but as it turned out the Final Four was out of reach anyway due to Barcelona (5-1) winning its last game against the Slovenians. Besides a first victory, Asvel's fans had the pleasure of watching newcomer Marko Bulic hit 5 of 6 three-pointers en route to 17 points, the same as Andre Owens. David Frigout added 15 for the winners, Simon Petrov and Vasco Evtimov 12 each. Olympiacos went down swinging with 19 points form Nenad Markovic, 16 from DeMarco Johnson, 14 from Giorgios Giannouzakos and 11 from Maurice Evans.
Evans christened the game with a jumper and drove for a dunk to put Olympiacos ahead 2-6 after 3 minutes. The visitors' defense had already forced 2 turnovers by Asvel, but the home team held the Reds to a single free throw, by Evans, in the next 3 minutes, until newcomer Marko Bulic could hit a triple for a 7-7 tie. Evans continued to be the main scoring otpion for Olympiacos, but Sasha Giffa and Vasco Evtimov both got loose inside as Asvel took an 11-10 lead after 7 minutes. Fouls sent the Reds to the free throw line, however, where De Miguel made 1 and Giorgios Giannouzakos 2 as Olympiacos went ahead again, 11-13. But Evtimov tied from the line, Evans sent the Reds ahead and David Frigout tied again for Asvel at 15-15. Bulic ended the tie dance with his second three-pointer and Frigout added a layup to give the hosts a 20-17 lead after 10 minutes.
A pair of inside shots, by Evtimov and by Stevin Smith, pushed Asvel ahead 24-18 early in the second quarter. Olympiacos called on an old pro, Markovic, to lead the response. He scored on 2 drives himself in less than a minute and then Giannouzakos let fly a jumper that tied it 24-24. Now, Johnson made his presence felt in a big way. He put in his own pair of shots and added a free throw as the Reds completed a 0-11 run to a 24-29 lead. Asvel needed a score badly and Simon Petrov obliged with a three-pointer. Not only that, but when Markovic answered with his own shot from the arc, Petrov came the other way and hit another. Then, when Frigout hit a jumper of his own, the scoreboard was knotted again, 32-32, in the 17th minute. Johnson was set to take over the rest of the halfhowever. He got to the line for 2 more free throws, finished a fastbreak and poured in a jumper for a personal 6-1 run for a 33-38 lead, the biggest so far for Olympiacos. An exchange of baskets and free throws in the final stretch could only alter that difference by a point as the Reds cruised to the half ahead 36-40.
Asvel began the third quarter with a 7-0 that included an Andre Owens three-pointer, forcing Olympiacos coach Lefteris Subotic to call a timeout after 24 minutes. It was a good thing for his players, who finally scored their first points of the period a few moments later. Olympiacos managed to take back the lead later behind a large contribution by Giannouzakos and Nikos Boudouris, who put up 5 points each in the quarter. Asvel was down by 4 now, but refused to give up and scored 11 points in less than 2:30. Evtimov had 5 points and 4 rebounds and Owens scored 9 with a perfect 2 for 2 at long distance, including a huge one with a foul to tie the game. Asvel finally won the third 25-17 and was leading 61-57 heading into the final quarter.
Asvel had a hard time defending the pick-and-rolls Olympiacos ran for Markovic, who scored 9 points in the final quarter while making 2 for 3 shots behind the three-point line. Markovic kept his team alive with the help of Giannouzakos, who added another 5 points to reach his total of 14. But the big man of the final quarter was on Asvel's side. Marko Bulic showed the fans in Villeurbann why he was the Israel League's biggest scorer once. He scored 8 points as Asvel kept moving ahead now, with 2 perfect shots from behind the arc in transition, giving him 5 of 6 on the evening. Frigout, who played as the only post player of Asvel for practically all the quarter, contributed with 8 points and 4 rebounds. Olympiacos seemed too short physically to resist the transition game of Asvel and finally cracked under pressure 89-79.
Thursday, April 17, 2003