By holding the two-time defending champions to their lowest scoring total of the last two seasons, Olympiacos forced one Quarterfinal Playoffs series to the limit with a 76-70 victory over visiting Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv in Game 2 of their best-of-three series on Thursday in Athens. The series is tied 1-1, with do-or-die Game 3 coming next Thursday at Maccabi's home court in Tel Aviv. Olympiacos used super defense to protect small leads most of the way. Sofoklis Schortsanitis came off the bench to score 17 points on 7-for-8 two-point shooting for the winners while helping to hold Maccabi's scoring ace from Game 1, Nikola Vujcic, to 2 points in 36 minutes. Former Maccabi player Quincy Lewis added 14 points for the Reds while Panagiotis Vasilopoulos and Tyus Edney had 10 each. Olympiacos also enjoyed a 34-26 rebounding edge although none of its players took more than five. For Maccabi, Will Solomon poured in 23 points, while Anthony Parker had a double-double of 17 and 10 rebounds. Derrick Sharp added 11 points and Maceo Baston 10 for the guests, who got as close as 69-66 in the next-to-last minute before Vasilopoulos scored the last 7 points for Olympiacos.
Edney's opening shot went off target and his first pass to the visitors, who got started with a dunk by Baston. Manolis Papamakarios connected from outside the arc for Olympiacos, but Baston kept the guests ahead 3-4. Both teams found offensive rebounds - Olympiacos having three in three minutes - but that did not mean second-chance points for anyone. Andrija Zizic took offensive responsibility for the hosts 4 consecutive points inside to make it 7-4. Solomon reacted from outside, but Olympiacos was standing confidently on its feet as Lewis chipped in a triple to make it 10-6. Maccabi was making mistakes, but Edney had suffered 3 turnovers of its own so far, which meant Olympiacos could not find easy layups after its steals. Free throws boosted the lead before Schortsianitis came off the bench to connect and make it 14-8. Maccabi could not set up a good offensive play as Olympiacos kept stealing and doubled the score of the champs, 16-8. When Vassilopoulos nailed an open three-pointer, the margin reached double digits at 19-8. Finally, Sharp and Jamie Arnold combined for 5 points to get Maccabi's total into double digits, but Olympiacos still held a comfortable 21-15 lead after 10 minutes.
Christos Harissis replaced Edney and scored 4 points on a triple-plus-free throw combination to boost the lead to double digits again, 25-15, to start the second quarter. Maccabi struggled to get connected until Parker broke 3 minutes of scoring silence for the defending champs in the second quarter. Schortsanitis answered back within seconds before Barlos stole and coasted for an impressive tomahawk dunk and a 12-point Olympiacos lead, 29-17. With its problems mounting, Maccabi found solutions as Solomon and Parker drove the paint for basket. Zizic copied them for Olympiacos, but Derrick Sharp popped a jumper to keep the guests going. Maccabi was now playing better on both ends and when Sharon Shason and Solomon each added baskets, the visitors were within 33-28. Olympiacos was now the team to commit mistakes, while Parker increased Maccabi’s unanswered run to 0-7. Only a Renaldas Seibutis hook shot in the post allowed Olympiacos to remain ahead 35-30 after 20 minutes, but Maccabi had some momentum now.
Edne's first pointscame from a jumper at the starting of the third quarter. Parker remained the most secure offensive choice for Maccabi, nailing a triple from the corner, but Papamakarios immediately copied him for Olympiacos, making it 40-33. Schortsianitis dunked for 42-33, but he scored even on his own basket on defense to let Maccabi come within 42-35. Maccabi itself could only get points at the line through Solomon, who made it 42-37. Edney had trouble setting up the offense giving Olympiacos 14 turnovers after less than 25 minutes. Solomon proved hot now, drilling a shot from beyond the arc, before Edney drew fouls worht 4 free throws in a row. At the other foul line, Vujcic found his first points, too, for a 46-42 score. The tempo slowed as both teams could not create open opportunities. Lewis, however, found a pair of fade-away shots to make it 50-42. Baston hit free throws, before the game's highlight came when Scortsianitis finished with a one-handed-dunk through a great pick-and-roll with Harissis, 53-44. Parker closed the third quarter with a nice jumper, but Olympiacos was stil in front, 53-46.
Schortsianitis and Baston exchanged baskets in the paint to get the final period started. Solomon matched the 15 points of Schortsianitis when he connected from behind the three-point line to make it 57-51. When Baston scored, Maccabi got as close as 57-53. Seibutis boosted the Reds this time, with a triple, and when Schortianitis dunked again, the lead was back to 62-54 and Maccabi needed a timeout. Parker and Solomon stepped up to cut the margin to 62-58 within seconds, before Edney nailed a jumper at 64-58. Solomon was now in the zone, however, sending in another three-pointer to make it 64-61. Lewis answered with a huge one from the arce, however. Soon Sharp went to the line, edging the guests within 66-63, but Baston missed a good opportunity to bring Maccabi even closer. At the other end, Edney's free throws made it 69-63, but Sharp erased them with a three-pointer from the corner. With the Reds up 69-66 with 1:20 to play, traveling by Edney gave Maccabi the opportunity to tie it, but Solomon missed a shot under pressure. Lewis missed too, but Vassilopoulos was there to grab the deciding rebound with 17 seconds remaining; he scored and drew the foul as Olympiacos sailed ahead 72-66. Solomon and Vassilopoulos were perfect from the line for both teams and when Vassilopoulos grabbed another rebound after Parker's missed three-pointer, Olympiacos found a hero and most importantly a 76-70 win that extended the series to Game 3 next week.
Thursday, April 6, 2006