| Olympiacos held onto its share of first place by a thread after rallying in overtime to defeat host Le Mans 93-98 in France on Thursday. Olympiacos improved to 4-1 to remain tied for the top spot in Group A with Cibona, while Le Mans is still winless, occupying the last spot in the group. Lynn Greer saved the day for the Reds, as he drew a foul and made both free throws to even the score at 87-87 with 3.9 seconds to go, before Le Mans ran out of gas in the 6-11 overtime. Greer shot a perfect 5 of 5 from beyond the arc to lead everyone in scoring with 25 points, while also stealing the ball 4 times. Yotam Halperin helped Greer with 15 points, big man Ioannis Bourousis dominated inside with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Zoran Erceg chipped in with 10 points in 16 minutes. After Olympiacos overtook the lead in the fourth quarter, Brian Chase’s heroics kept the hosts alive, as his triple with 10,5 seconds to go put Le Mans up 87-85, before Greer evened it up on the other end. Dewarick Spencer led Le Mans with 4 three-pointers and 19 points, David Bluthenthal posted 18, while Joao Paulo Batista and Chased scored 16 points apiece. Alain Koffi registered a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the hosts
Bluthenthal converted a steal into an easy layup to put the hosts ahead early. Both teams were finishing with authority, as big men Bourousis and Koffi exchanged dunks, before Josh Childress curled off a screen and jammed one more for the guests. Batista found space for his second layup of the game to give the hosts an 8-4 lead. The inspired Le Mans players were beating Olympiacos for offensive rebounds and loose balls, as Spencer nailed the game's first triple for the hosts. Nikola Vujcic and Childress stepped up for the Reds only to see Le Mans make an 8-0 run, capped by two fast-break layups by a high-flying Spencer. At 22-10 Olympiacos head coach Panagiotis Giannakis was forced to call a timeout. Greer answered the call by scoring 7 points for the guests, and fellow substitute Sofoklis Schortsanitis added 2 to help them get a little closer at 29-19 after the first quarter.
Le Mans had a great substitute of its own in Maleye Ndoye, who connected on his second three-pointer at the start of the second quarter. Schortsanitis fuelled a 2-9 Olympiacos run with two powerful buckets inside and it was Le Mans head coach John-David Jackson's turn to call a timeout. Luckily for Le Mans, Schortsanitis got into foul trouble, and Batista used his chance for more points with 2 free throws. Olympiacos answered by hitting 5 of 6 from the line, as Halperin cut it to 38-33. Chase and Spencer nailed two from long distance for Le Mans, but Vujcic and Erceg dominated inside for the visitors. Spencer seemed to have taken a poor decision with a tough shot from about 9 meters, but it banked in. Then Koffi and Ndoye beat the guests with a give-and-go on a fast break, setting up an open dunk from Koffi. The big man was also the one to score the last points of the period with a perfect reverse layup that capped a 9-2 Le Mans run to make it 52-41 at the break.
Olympiacos’s players came out determined to turn the game around as Halperin hit a jumper, Erceg scored of a Le Mans turnover, and Greer beat the buzzer with a triple for a 2-7 surge. Batista hooked 2 points in for the hosts, before a shooting competition took place, as both teams made triples on two straight possessions. The Reds were getting closer, with Greer cutting it to 62-58 on a fast break. Chase stepped up with two acrobatic baskets for the hosts, while Bourousis was too big to handle on the other end. Bluthenthal nailed his second triple of the quarter to expand the lead to 7, but Theodoros Papaloukas cheated Le Mans on the last possession. While the hosts expected him to dribble down the clock, Papaloukas threw a perfect alley-op to Bourousis, who made it 73-68 with 10 minutes to go.
Bluthenthal connected on yet another jumper and then Le Mans had two excellent fast-break opportunities, but the ball just wouldn’t fall through the ring. Meanwhile, Greer led the way for the Reds with a three, a steal and an open layup to even the score at 77-77. Koffi dunked on the other end, but now Olympiacos smelled blood as Bourousis spun for 2 points inside, giving Olympiacos its first lead of the game at 79-81 with three-and-a-half minutes to go. Chase rescued the struggling Le Mans with 2 free throws and a tough floater, helping the hosts to regain the lead. Then he forced an Olympiacos turnover and set up Bluthenthal for an open shot, but the forward couldn’t hit. Halperin drove through the lane to even things at 83-83 with 1:30 left on the clock. After Spencer lost the ball on the other end, Childress, who had been quiet for most of the game, hit an off-the-dribble buzzer-beater to give the Reds an 83-85 lead. With 25.5 seconds left, Batista earned a trip to the line for Le Mans, but made just 1. But Olympiacos couldn’t control the rebound, giving Chase an opportunity for more heroics. The point-guard’s three with 10.5 seconds to go put Le Mans ahead 87-85 and seemed to have won the game, but with 3.9 seconds to go, Antoine Diot fouled a relatively passive Greer, who calmly sank both free throws. Chase had enough time to put up another tough three-pointer, but it didn’t fall and the score stood even at 87-87 after 40 minutes.
After Halperin's free throws put Olympiacos in front, Papaloukas stole the ball and set Childress up for a dunk with a no-look assist. The French crowd knew that Le Mans was in trouble after Bouroisis grabbed his own rebound to put it in and give the guests a 93-87 lead. Even Chase couldn't hit his floater any more, as Le Mans head coach J.D. Jackson took one last timeout. Spencer gave Le Mans hope with a triple, but even though Bouroisis only hit just 1 of 4 free throws, the Reds were finally in control on defense to end a fantastic night in France with a victory.
Thursday, November 27, 2008