Olympiacos put on a basketball clinic on Wednesday as it crushed Cibona Zagreb 93-64 at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Piraeus, Greece. The Reds took over the game by starting the second period with a 13-0 run and they never let up. Olympiacos outrebounded Cibona 35-23 and dished 25 assists to the visitors’ 6 as they improved to 6-2, holding on to at least a share of the Group A lead. Olympiacos will take sole possession of first place if Unicaja loses its game on Thursday against Avellino. Meanwhile Cibona, which entered the game tied with the Reds for first, drops to 5-3. Center Nikola Vujcic was the star of the show with an impressive performance that included 12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocked shots. Moreover, Vujcic entered the history books late in the second period when he scored his 2,000th career Euroleague points, joining a shortlist of legends. Yotam Halperin and Ioannis Bourousis led Olympiacos with 13 points apiece, Josh Childress added 12 and Zoran Erceg scored 11. Earl Calloway paced Cibona with 18 and Marin Rozic had 11 in defeat.
Both teams tried to use their inside game early, but it was Lynn Greer that opened the scoring when he sank a three. Rozic bagged 6 fast points to give Cibona a 7-9 lead, but Giorgos Printezis responded with basket-plus-foul to restore the hosts’ lead. Olympiacos head coach Panagiotis Giannakis switched his defense from man-to-man to zone, which didn’t affect the visitors, who scored three consecutive times – including a pair of threes by Calloway – for a 15-17 lead. Cibona head coach Velimir Perasovic made the same defensive change, but Olympiacos didn’t have a quick adjustment to the new conditions and Cibona remained ahead 20-22 at the close of the first quarter.
Since the visitors finished the first period with only 2 for 10 two-point shots, but 5 for 6 triples, Olympiacos tried to improve its defense on the perimeter and to not allow Cibona to score as they did before. Meanwhile the Reds found a lot of alternatives in offense and led by Theo Papaloukas, used all their weapons from inside and outside to score 13 unanswered points. With five minutes to go till the end of the second period Calloway buried a triple to make it 33-25, but the Reds didn’t allow them to return to the game. Vujcic and Bourousis contributed for a spectacular high-low play before Rozic nailed another three. Olympiacos kept scoring both in transition and in the set offense using the pick-and-roll. Papaloukas opened another amazing fast break with a baseball pass, while Vuicic gave his team a 15-point gap, 43-28, with a historical basket as he reached the 2,000-point plateau. By halftime, Olympiacos had boosted the margin to 50-31.
Olympiacos outscored Cibona 30-9 in the second period and commenced the third period with the same rhythm. Despite the third personal foul committed by Sofoklis Schortsanitis, the Reds continued their up-tempo game and led by Papaloukas soared up to 62-38. Jared Homan committed his fourth personal foul and Cibona turned again its defense to zone, but the hosts were unstoppable and thanks to 2 three-pointers made by Erceg, they stretched the lead to 74-42. At the end of the third quarter Olympiacos was 28 points ahead, 77-49 and the crowd was enjoying a basketball show.
Vujcic scored back-to-back baskets to make it 81-54 before going to the bench. The visitors were unable to follow the tempo of Olympiacos, whose coach found the opportunity to try different schemes, something that didn’t affect the effectiveness of his team. Robert Troha scored from the arc to cut the margin a bit to 84-59, but it was Childress’s turn to score easy points and bring the margin up to 90-58. Erceg scored another three pointer and pushed the lead to 33 points as the fans applauded a spectacular effort as time expired.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008