First place in Group B changed hands for the first time all season on Thursday as Olympiacos Pireaus manhandled visiting Unicaja 89-68 before an appreciative crowd in Greece. Both teams are now 5-2, but Olympiacos won by 3 points more than it lost in Malaga in their first meeting, so the Reds take over first place. Injury-riddled Unicaja - which lost center Robert Archibald, too, midway through this game - came out strong, talking an early eight-point lead. Olympiacos followed the entry of Theo Papaloukas on a steady path to the lead, however, and kept rolling until the score difference from that first game was eclipsed in the final minutes. Josh Childress and Linas Kleiza paced the winners with 15 points each, while Yotam Halperin added 14, Nikola Vujcic 12 and Ioannis Bourousis 10. Papaloukas scored 9 points and dished 7 assists. The Reds took advantage of Unicaja being without starting big man Joel Freeland to rule on the backboards with a rebounding advantage of 39-21. Unicaja got 18 points from Omar Cook, 12 from Georgios Printezis and 11 each from Jiri Welsch and Larry Lewis.
Welsch took the game's first ball straight to the hoop for the visitors. Olympiacos got a mismatch on which one center, Vujcic, fed another, Bourousis, for an easy hook. Archibald downed free throws, but Vujcic matched it with a basket, Bourousis added his own foul shots and Childress went coast to coast for an 8-4 Olympiacos lead. The next in a series of Unicaja steals yielded a layup by Welsch, but Vujcic dropped a deep hook in response. Lewis lined up a triple to keep the visitors close. Childress dunked a fastbreak miss for the Reds, but Cook detonated a triple in response, giving Unicaja a 12-12 tie. Yet another Unicaja steal set up Cook in the corner again, where he blasting another triple. Next time down the floor, he passed to Guillem Rubio in the same spot, and just like that, Unicaja was up 12-18. Carlos Jimenez hit a nifty one-hand floater to finish his team's 0-11 run with Unicaja up 12-20. Papaloukas entered and quickly changed things for the Reds by finding an easy layup for Bouroussis. Next it was Childress feeding Bourousis for a monster dunk to cut the difference to 16-20 after 10 minutes.
Neither team gave an inch early in the second quarter until Childress got loose for a layup. Kleiza then hit free throws for a tie game and Sofoklis Schortsanitis bulled to the rim to put the Reds up 22-20. With bodies hitting the floor due to tough defense, disqualifying fouls were called against Patrick Beverley of Olympiacos and Shammond Williams of Unicaja. When play resumed, Archibald faked a handoff and flew in for a dunk, but Papaloukas matched that basket and got a free throw, too. Taquan Dean went to the visitors' hot corner for a two-point jumper at 25-24. Schortsanitis, however, would not be stopped. He put back a missed dunk and added another basket inside. Unicaja got to the free throw line but Olympiacos responded with a Papaloukas layup and a Kleizas triple to boost its lead to 34-28. Halperin joined Kleiza next, both hitting layups as Olympiacos tried to run away at 38-28. Lewis revived Unicaja with a driving basket and triple, but Kleiza from deep and Halperin at the line got all those points back to make it 44-32. Unicaja got 3 points at the foul line, but Papaloukas broke a press with a halfcourt pass to Bourousis for a dunk that preserved a double-digit lead, 46-35, at halftime for Olympiacos.
Halperin was fouled on a triple and hit all 3 free throws to start the second half. Printezis answered with his first basket after a shoulder injury had sidelined him more than a month, but Archibald was soon on the floor for Unicaja, clutching his shoulder. Vujcic hit a layup and Childress scored in traffic at 53-37, but Unicaja kept fighting with a basket by Lewis, a triple by Cook and a put-back dunk-plus-free throw by Printezis to lower the difference to single digits, 55-46. After a timeout, Halperin pump-faked and drilled a triple before Schortsanitis moved in for a layup and Papaloukas streaked for another, quickly reestablishing the double-digit advantage at 62-46. Then, a Papaloukas dunk and Halperin layup gave Olympiacos its biggest lead yet, 66-48. Cook dialed long-distance while Rubio and Lewis hit free throws for Unicaja as the third quarter ended 66-55.
Rafa Freire of Unicaja and Vujcic exchanged baskets to start the final quarter. When Childress downed a three-pointer, however, the Olympiacos lead was starting to look untouchable again at 73-57. Cook tried with a layup to spark Unicaja, but the combination of Halperin and Vujcic was clicking again for Olympiacos. Welsch popped a triple from the corner for the guests, but the red tide continued rolling through a pair of Kleiza baskets inside and a triple that Milos Teodosic rattled in from the top of the circle. When Vujcic put back his own miss, it was a 13-3 run and an 86-62 lead for the Reds, enough to eclipse the margin of their first-game loss to Unicaja. The visitors teid a timeout to address that issue, but the Olympiacos stars stayed on the floor until the end to finish the job, putting their team in first place in Group B.
Thursday, December 10, 2009