Having already taken care of business by qualifying early for the Quarterfinal Playoffs, Olympiacos completed its fine Top 16 campaign in Group D with a blowout 70-99 road against Zalgiris, which finished the round winless despite the debut of new head coach Ainars Bagatskis. Olympiacos finished 4-2 for second place in Group D and found out that its opponent in the best-of-three playofss would be none other than two-time defending champion Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv. Olympiacos jumped all over Zalgiris to take 20-point first-half leads on the way to an easy victory. The visitors showed the Lithuanian crowd some impressive shooting, too, with seven players hitting 12 of 19 triples on the night. Nikos Hatzis hit all 3 of his attempts from downtown and led five Olympiacos double-figure scorers with 21 points. Christos Harrisis and Quincy Lewis added 14 each, Andrija Zizic 13 and Panagiotis Vasilopoulos 12. For Zalgiris, Darjus Lavrinovic put up 19 points in as many minutes, while Paulius Jankunas and Reggie Freeman added 12 each, and Simonas Serapinas 11.
Serapinas opened the scoring for Zalgiris with a triple from the left corner. Lavrinovic followed him with another shot from downtown on the next possession to give the hosts a 6-0 start, but Olympiacos answered with a basket-plus-free throw by Lewis and foul shots from Zizic. More free throws were exchanged before Lewis hit from the arc for a first Olympiacos lead, 8-10. More Zizic foul shots and a triple by Manolis Papamakarios boosted the difference to 9-15. Vasilopoulos came up with a big block on defense, and soon its own Lithuanian player, Renaldas Seibutis, was adding a layup for Olympiacos. The big matchup inside saw Sofoklis Schortsanitis draw consecutive fouls on Lavrinovic, but the Zalgiris big man remained active on offense, closing the quarter with free throws that cut the Olympiacos advantage to 15-19.
Lewis opened second quarter with middle-range jumper before Lavrinovic drove for a flashy layup. Zalgiris crowded the basket area as Olympiacos tried to run plays through Schortsanitis, and the defensive tactic paid off as he was whistled for an offensive foul. But the visitors just turned to another offensive weapon, Lewis, who made a jumper off the dribble and forced Bagatskis to call a timeout. Vasilopoulos faked and drilled a long jumper before the hosts heard more bad news in the form of Lavrinovic's third fould. A shooting slump continued for Zalgiris until Serapinas drove for a layup and Freeman nailed a triple, but those points only cut the margin to 22-34. Hatzis and Freeman traded 5 points apiece for their teams but it didn't help Zalgiris a lot as the visitors got 6 more points between Hatzis and Harrissis. Papamakarios making the seventh three-pointer already for Olympiacos left the visitors with a whopping 29-48 lead at the half.
Lavrinovic returned with a hook shot to open the second half, but Olympiacos kept its rhythm as Tyus Edney poured in a triple and Lewis a free throw. A Lavrinovic put-back and Freeman's three-pointer only got Zalgiris within 36-54. Mantas Kalnietis found his touch for Zalgiris with a turnaround jumper and, after an Olympiacos timeout, the hosts tried to push ball inside, where Tanoka Beard found his first points. But the Reds continued their long-distance shooting festival as Seibutis and Hatzis made back-to-back triples. Zalgiris didn't seemed out of focus and Olympiacos took full advantage with jumper by Hatzis before he and Vasilopoulos drilled another pair from the arc to zoom ahead 48-78 after three quarters.
Paulius Jankunas hit reverse layup before Vasilopoulos answered with free throws to open the final quarter. Vidas Ginevicius followed a pair of missed triples with a good one, to which Jonas Maciulis added 3 points for Zalgiris. But even with the outcome beyond doubt, Zalgiris seemed slow to defend, and again Olympiacos exploited that as Hatzis made a jumper and Schortsanitis started showtime with consecutive monster dunks. Lavrinovic seemed to be the only Zalgiris player funcioning well as Hatzis made another jumper for a 62-90 lead.. When Zizic hit the last one, Olympiacos had its 12th three-pointer in 19 attempts and a blowout win that ruined the coaching debut of Bagatskis in the Euroleague.
Thursday, March 30, 2006