Montepaschi Siena stunned Olympiacos 65-82
Montepaschi Siena stunned Olympiacos 65-82 on Thursday night at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Piraeus, Greece, to tie their best-of-five Turkish Airlines Euroleague Playoffs series at 1-1. After the Reds thoroughly dominated Game 1 in a record-setting performance, Montepaschi bounced back in Game 2 with a spirited effort. The win stopped cold an Olympiacos seven-game winning streak in Euroleague play and gave Montepaschi the home-court advantage with the series shifting to Italy for two games next week where the Italian champs could potentially close out the series with two wins. Malik Hairston paced the winners with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Rimantas Kaukenas scored 14 and Milovan Rakovic added 12 in a commendable team effort on the defensive end. The visitors nailed 54% of their three-point attempts. Montepaschi had a good start to the gameand Olympiacos was not able to match the visitor’s intensity. The hosts got as close as 4 points in the final quarter, but ended up losing by much more. Loukas Mavrokefalides scored 16 points and grabbed 7 rebounds for the hosts, while Vassilis Spanoulis added 12 points and 5 assists and Rasho Nestrevoic recorded 10 points in defeat.
Newly-installed in the starting lineup, Marco Carraretto made sure Montepaschi got on the board early after the previous blowout, and the game’s first basket came courtesy of a pull-up jumper by the visiting guard. The Italian champs showed defensive tenacity from the get-go, forcing a pair of quick turnovers and playing with a new-found confidence on the offensive end. Rakovic answered a Kostas Papanikolaou triple with a running hook after his 0-for-7 performance on Tuesday, and the visitors matched pace with Olympiacos, as Kaukenas challenged and beat Ioannis Bourousis on consecutive gutsy penetrations to score it 8-10. Spanoulis answered with his own off-balance shot at the other end, as both teams seemed to counter-punch each other in 4-point stretches, jockeying for pole position in a game that had no resemblance to the previous one. An aggressive Montepaschi closed the opening quarter in style with a Marko Jaric three-point play off a steal and another layup after a most-unusual Theodoros Papaloukas turnover. As Kaukenas dropped a running teardrop to follow, the visiting run closed with 10 unanswered points and the score settled at 12-20 by the end of the period.
The lead grew to 12 at the start of the second after a Hairston put-back and a dunk, as the visitors attacked the rim and Olympiacos could not get its big men going. A Zoran Erceg triple was promptly answered by Shaun Stonerook at the other end, a testament to Siena’s attitude makeover and new-found edge, with matters standing at 15-27. The hosts worked to set up their half-court offense through Papaloukas’s experienced hands, but could not establish deep position inside or manufacture good perimeter looks. After a Ksistof Lavrinovic three and a Hairston jumper extended the visiting lead to 17-32, the Reds attacked the offensive glass relentlessly in search of a spark, but Siena’s excellent ball movement at the other end produced quality shots. When Nikos Zisis wasn’t knocking down a mid-range jumper, it was Kaukenas sneaking in for a backdoor bankshot, and only Nesterovic’s know-how in the paint at the offensive end kept the hosts within striking distance. Olympiacos still was able to dig deep and muster a mini-run to close the quarter, by way of a Papaloukas jumpshot and Papanikolaou breakaway layup, reaching halftime a bit peppier at 31-39.
Head coach Dusan Ivkovic’s team came out of the tunnel fully focused after the break, scoring 4 straight points and forcing visiting head coach Simone Pianigiani to burn a timeout. With inside position a dicey matter, Bourousis stepped beyond the arc to drain a triple, and Zisis centered the attention on the visiting attack. Hairston sparked his team with a spectacular put-back dunk off a Rakovic miss. Papaloukas drained another triple to tighten the margin at 43-48. As the crowd roared and intensity picked up, Montepaschi did not back down, with Stonerook setting the defensive tone and Zisis heating up on offense. Hairston dropped a long-range bomb to keep Olympiacos on its heels at 51-61, the score at the end of three.
With a 10-point deficit and 10 minutes to go, the hosts went back inside to start the final quarter and found some relief through Nesterovic, but Rakovic dropped a jumper at the other end and Stonerook and Hairston added long-range bombs to stretch it out to 56-68 again with just over six minutes to play. Panigiani’s crew spaced the floor diligently as Olympiacos tightened up the defense, and Kaukenas attacked the basket, capitalizing on a three-point play off a running hook before Rakovic hit again to make it a 13-point difference at the midway mark. Frustration started to mount for the home squad, who had to earn many of its points from the foul line, and turnovers kept mounting at the worst possible time. Trying to make up for lost ground, the home guards pressed the issue against a steady Montepaschi zone defense, while the visiting big men moved well without the ball enjoyed easy makes. With less than three minutes remaining, an emphatic Lavrinovic block of a Mavrokefalides shot symbolized much of the night for both teams involved: Montepaschi’s commendable resilience under duress. As Olympiacos was unable to claw back, another image lingered in the closing minutes, as the dejected home bench looked on. And one enduring thought: we have a series, indeed.
Thursday, March 24, 2011