Olympiacos took an important step in its quest to make the Top 16 from Group B by edging visiting Lietuvos Rytas 65-63 in the Pireaus, Greece on Wednesday. Olympiacos improved to 5-6 in the Group B standings, while L.Rytas, which would have reached the Top 16 with a victory, dropped to 7-4 and what will be a share of second place. Nikos Barlos led the winners with a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. Manolis Papamakarios added 13 points and Quincy Lewis 12 for Olympiacos. Matt Nielsen posted a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds for L.Rytas. Roberts Stelmahers added 14 points and Tomas Delininkaitis 10 for the guests, who outrebounded their opponents by 31-43 but committed 16 turnovers. A put-back layup by Simas Jasaitis gave L.Rytas its last lead at 43-45. Olympiacos held slim leads after that, and when Stelmahers brought the guests within 64-62 in the final seconds, Tyus Edney preserved the victory with free throws for the hosts.
Nielsen opened the scoring for L. Rytas, but soon Olympiacos guards Edney and Papamakarios drove to the basket to put the Reds in front 4-2. Both teams chose pressure defense on the perimeter and forced turnovers from each other. Fred House and Javtokas scored inside for the visitors but Papamakarios and Barlos answered in the same way to keep Olympiacos ahead 9-7. A nice pick-and-roll from Lewis and Andrija Zizic mad it 11-7, before Stelmahers and Nielsen landed a triple each to vault L. Rytas into the lead at 10-13. The visitors liked that trend, and soon Simas Jasaitis and Delininkaitis popped from the arc, too, as their team led 15-19. Big man Sofoklis Scortsianitis took offensive responsibility for Olympiacos, but L. Rytas quickly went to a zone defense to prevent passes inside. The Reds found and alternative on the perimeter, where Lewis drilled a three-pointer to cut the difference to 18-22 after 10 minutes.
Both teams started the second quarter playing zones, and while Olympiacos missed more open three-point-shots - the hosts were 1-for-8 so far from the arc - L. Rytas found baskets in the paint by Stelmahers and Haris Mujezinovic to push ahead 18-26. Nikos Hatzis made free throws and Edney an easy layup to make it 22-26, but soon L. Rytas reacted with a triple by Mindaugas Lukauskis and a good fadeaway jumper by Nielsen for a 24-31 edge. The guests found many second opportunities from the 10 offensive rebounds they had already collected as part of a 22-10 advantage on the boards so far. But L. Rytas did not find the way to get full advantage on the scoreboard, so when Barlos stepped up for Olympiacos at the end of the half, the difference was trimmed again, to 30-33 after 20 minutes.
L. Rytas started the second half in exactly the same fashion, by collecting offensive rebounds. But Olympiacos was the team to get connected with a good triple by Lewis and a nice layup by Barlos to tie 35-35. Stelmahers kept his nerve and popped in a three-pointer, but Barlos remained the go-to guy for Olympiacos and answered from the arc. Jasaitis dunked on the baseline, but Papamakarios got a basket-plus-free throw for a new Olympiacos lead, 41-40. Delininkaitis put L. Rytas ahead again with a three-pointer, but the game's momentum had now changed toward Olympiacos as Matt Freije and Lewis scored to put the hosts ahead again 49-47 after three quarters.
Even while L. Rytas kept adding to its rebound collection to start the final quarter, Olympiacos pushed ahead 50-47 on a free throw by Barlos. Javtokas scored his team's first field goal after 6 minutes of nothing but free throws, and then a triple by Stelmahers tied it up 51-51. Lewis stepped up to give Olympiacos the lead back with 5 minutes left before Papamakarios and Nielsen exchanged triples for a 56-55 home lead. Edney returned to the floor to nail a crucial three-pointer from the corner that made it 59-55, and after free throws by Delininkaitis, Papamakarios fed Zizic for a 61-57 Olympiacos lead with 1:30 left. Nielsen cut that margin in half with free throws, and Reinaldas Seibutis hit only 1 of 2 for the Reds, Barlos was there to get a big offensive rebound. Next, Barlos missed both of his free throw opportunities, and with the scoreboard showing 62-59, L. Rytas tried 3 open shots from the same spot behind the arc. Jasaitis twice and Delinikaitis once did not find the target and Seibutis put the Reds up 64-59. As such, a late triple by Stelmahers made it close, but Olympiacos held onto its fifth home win in six games and renewed chances to reach the Top 16.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006