Olympiacos edged Anadolu Efes 65-67
Olympiacos Piraeus took charge of all-important second place in Group E with a dramatic 65-67 victory over Anadolu Efes on Wednesday at Sinan Erdem Arena in Istanbul, pushing that city's dream of a Turkish team on the same floor at the 2011 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four this spring somewhat further away. A furious Efes rally erased all of an 11-point deficit with 2:30 to play as Sasha Vujacic buried a game-tying triple at 65-65 with 16 seconds left. Efes put Kostas Sloukas on the foul line, but he buried both his free throws before a game-winning three-point try by Efes guard Oliver Lafayette missed as time ran out. Olympiacos broke their tie for second place and now has a 2-2 record, with Efes falling to 1-3 with just two Top 16 games to play. CSKA is undefeated, so in the race for the second playoffs berth, the Reds now have the edge. With victories in both games they played, however, Olympiacos would advance in any eventual tie involving Efes. Kostas Papanikolaou and Georgios Printezis hit big shots all night to lead the winners with 16 points each in a defensive battle. Lafayette scored 22 points in as many minutes for Efes, while Stanko Barac followed him with 16. Efes suffered huge droughts against the Olympiacos defense, however, scoring just 9 and 10 points, respectively, in the first and third quarters, which proved costly at the finish.
Esteban Batista backed down Olympiacos center Joey Dorsey for a layup to open the scoring and get the Efes crowd excited. The big-man connection of Pero Antic to Dorsey for an alley-oop slam got Olympiacos on the scoreboard. Vassilis Spanoulis fed Papanikolaou for the visitors' first lead, 2-5, which Sasha Vujacic answered with a layup that would be his only points until the final 2 minutes. The Reds then handled an Efes halfcourt trap with Dorsey feeding Antic this time for a dunk. The scoreboard stalled at 4-7 until Dusko Savanovic restarted the Efes offense. The Reds got those points back with a reverse layup by Papanikolaou just before the shot-clock buzzer. Otherwise the defenses and a bit of nerves resulted in multiple turnovers, 7 by each team already, until free throws by Spanoulis and Dorsey pushed the Reds in front 6-13. Lafayette got back a pair of free throws for Efes, but Kyle Hines answered with a short jumper as Olympiacos pulled away to a 9-16 advantage after 10 minutes.
Acie Law and Papanikolaou sandwiched two-pointers around the game's first triple, which came off the hand of Lafayette, at the start of the second quarter. When Barac put back a rebound and Lafayette buried another shot from the arc, Efes was within 17-22. Then, however, Martynas Gecevicius and Law hit their team's first triples to make it 19-28. The back-and-forth continued with a pick-and-roll slam by Barac answered by Dorsey's jump hook over him. Barac kept rolling with free throws and a tip-in at 25-30, after which Antic and Savanovic traded foul shots. Cenk Akyol's free throw for Efes was bettered by Printezis scoring in close, but Savanovic matched it with a turnaround swish at 30-34. An inspired Barac slammed off another pick-and-roll to charge up the crowd, but Olympiacos got a free throw from Spanoulis and a put-back on his subsequent miss by Printezis to close the first half still leading, 32-37.
Some choppy ballhandling and poor shot selection by Efes let Papanikolaou get a pair of fastbreak layups to start the second half. Suddenly down 32-41, Efes needed a timeout, but couldn't get its offense started until Lafayette made a basket after 5 minutes of the third quarter had passed. Just as suddenly, he broke free for another, but Spanoulis answered with a clutch jumper. When Lafayette buried another triple, Efes was within 39-43, but again Spanoulis came up big with a driving layup. Next, Barac took it himself for a jump hook and hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 42-45, as close as Efes had been for a long time. Printezis closed another quarter with style, however, this time from the three-point arc, lifting Olympiacos to a 42-48 edge after 30 minutes.
Akyol hit a shot in close to open the final quarter, then dialled up a three-pointer that had the crowd on its feet for a 47-48 scoreboard. Olympiacos was not impressed: Printezis came back with a pair of driving layups to give the Reds breathing room. A Barac put-back made it 49-52, where the score stalled until Dorsey's steal and fastbreak dunk quieted the crowd and forced an Efes timeout with 6 minutes left. Tarence Kinsey buried a much-needed lane jumper that cut the differencce to 51-54 for Efes, but Papanikolaou sliced for a layup and the free throw that came with it to calm Olympiacos. When Printezis measured off another triple, it was 51-60 and you could hear a pin drop at Sinan Erdem Arena. Efes started stopping the clock with 2 minutes, 43 seconds left, but Hines made that strategy pay by hitting 2 of 2 foul shots for the game's first double-digit lead, 52-62. Hines made another free throw before Lafayette got a layup as Efes tried to devise a miracle comeback with 2 minutes left... and almost succeeded. Vujacic buried a step-back three-pointer to revive those hopes at 57-63, but Papanikolaou again drove for a layup. On their third chance of the next possession, Lafayette hit a rainbow triple on the one-minute mark at 60-65. He forced a turnover next and drove for a high-banked layup to make it 65-62. Another Olympiacos turnover led to Vujacic shooting high over Dorsey for a killer triple that completed the comeback with a 65-65 tie and 16 seconds left. Out of a timeout, Vujacic fouled Sloukas with 10 seconds left. The 22-year-old sank both free throws, and with time running out, Lafayette tried a game-winning triple that missed, letting Olympiacos go home to Greece with a good-as-gold victory.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012