Tau Ceramica bounced back from its first Euroleague home loss in over two years by downing Olympiacos Piraeus 75-64 on Wednesday night at the Fernando Buesa Arena. Tau used its defense to hold Olympiacos to just 5 fourth-quarter points en route to a big win, which improved its record to 5-3. Meanwhile Olympiacos dropped to 4-4 and also lost any potential head-to-head tiebreakers with Tau. Mirza Teletovic led Tau with 19 points, Pete Mickeal posted 12 points and 9 rebounds, Zoran Planinic added 12 and Igor Rakocevic 10. Arvydas Macijauskas had 14 for Olympiacos against his former team, Rod Blakney registered season-highs of 13 points and 6 steals, Marc Jackson was good for 12 points and 8 rebounds and Qyntel Woods added 10. The game was even for most of the first three periods and Olympiacos still led 57-59 heading into the fourth quarter. But the Tau defense held Olympiacos scoreless for more than five minutes during which it scored 9 unanswered points to take control for good on the way to a big win.
Knowing how dangerous Macijauskas can be, his former team started putting Mickeal on him, and that forced Tau’s defense to use Rakocevic on Milos Teodosic and Planinic on Woods. Both teams started at slow pace, especially because Olympiacos decided to switch to a zone defense early in the quarter, as Macijauskas sat down with a hand injury after only two minutes. Tau found Teletovic on the perimeter to take an early 7-4 lead. The visitors found an answer in Woods, who scored the first 4 points for his team. A three-pointer by Rakocevic extended the lead to 12-6 midway through the first period, while Olympiacos looked unexpectedly blind on offense. Kostas Vassiliadis reduced the gap with a corner three, but those were the only points for the Reds during a 10-3 run in which Mickeal and Teletovic raised people from the stands thanks to a monster dunk and a blocked shot followed by a three-pointer. Although Vassiliadis hit again from downtown to get Olympiacos within 22-14 and Macijauskas returned to action, the visitors were unable to reduce the difference and finished the first quarter trailing 25-14 after free throws by Rakocevic and Linton Johnson.
Plananic scored a nice layup over Jake Tsakalidis to open fire in the second period, but Olympiacos reacted quickly with Macijauskas and Blakney running the offense to force Tau head coach Neven Spahija to call timeout up 27-20 two minutes into the second period. It was Planinic again, this time from behind the three-point line, who returned the double-digit lead to Tau. The temperature raised on the floor when Will McDonald and Tskalidis were both called for a technical foul midway through the second period after almost starting a fight, and it was only the beginning as Pablo Prigioni was called for an unsportsmanlike foul and a technical foul that allowed Olympiacos get within 32-30. It was only a matter of time till the Reds gained the lead, as the hosts lost concentration and wasted offenses with off-balance shots and turnovers. Two free throws by Macijauskas and a terrific alley-oop by Woods tied the game at 34-34 with three minutes remaining. Macijauskas then gave the visitors their first lead. Tiago Splitter tied it again, but committed his third foul on Jackson, forcing Spahija to sit him down. Jackson didn’t waste the opportunity and hit twice from the line to send the game to the locker rooms with the Reds leading 36-38.
Woods extended the margin with a layup right after the intermission, followed by a fastbreak layup from Blakney that gave the Reds a 36-42 edge. Although Mickeal tried to lead a comeback, the Reds answered with Macijauskas, who scored 6 points in a row to boost Olympiacos up to 40-48. Tau tried to react with a three-pointer by Prigioni, who took over against the Reds’ zone defense. A three-point play by McDonald brought the hosts within 48-50 midway through the third period, giving some hope to a very nervous local crowd. Mickeal nailed 2 free throws to tie the game after McDonald blocked a Macijauskas jumper, and capped a fast break with a two-handed dunk on the next play to give the lead back to the hosts. Olympiacos head coach Pini Gershon called for an urgent timeout, but two offensive fouls in a row and a three-pointer by Prigioni widened the gap to 57-52. Olympiacos found Jackson and Blakney, however, and prevented Tau from escaping. Two points from Jackson inside and a three-pointer followed by a jumper from Blakney allowed the Reds finish the third period with a slim margin, 57-59.
Tau increased its intensity at the beginning of the fourth quarter, putting more effort on one-on-one defense and preventing the Olympiacos shooters from getting open shots. As a result, the Reds remained scoreless for the first five minutes of the period and the hosts found points from Mickeal, Sergi Vidal and Planinic to regain the lead. Things got worse for the visitors as Teletovic beat the shot clock with a triple that raised the Tau morale and forced a timeout by Gershon with the Reds trailing 66-59. The visitors continued to use a zone defense and, even though it prevented Tau from finding its momentum, no Olympiacos player was able to score as the hosts to amassed a comfortable lead. It was Tsakalidis, from the free-throw line, to end the drought for Olympiacos, who entered in the last minutes trailing 68-61. Spahija decided to use Prigioni as an attempt to break the zone defense, but the key to victory was the defense. Teletovic hit a layup for a 9-point lead entering in the last minute and, although Teodosic hit a huge triple on the next play, the Teletovic was fed by Priogini again to make it 72-64 lead with 20 seconds remaining. An acrobatic, one-handed, buzzer-beating triple by Planinic allowed Tau to end its bad streak and beat Olympiacos by 11, which could prove to be crucial later in the season.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007