Alphonso Ford, the leading scorer from last season, put up 28 points to lead Olympiakos of Greece to an 87-72 home win in its Euroleague opener agianst Efes Pilsen. Ford and his partner, James Forrest, were the stars, but they got a lot of help from Theodore Papaloukas, Alexis Savrasenko and Stephane Risacher in helping Olympiakos defend its new home court. Efes showed some fight in coming back from early deficits to contest the lead. As such, it still cannot be underestimated in tough Group A.
Ford and Forrest gave the big push as Olympiakos got off to a great start, taking a 15-point lead, 21-6, over the first six minutes. Alexis Sevrasenko and Stephane Risasher, who was doubtful to start, came up big too. The Efes players didn't seem to know what hit them. Only Mehmet Okur and Saulius Stombergas could find their the way to the Olympiakos basket and two free throws by Peker made the turkish points 11! Olympiakos seemed to be in a great night leading by 14 at the end of first period (25-11).
In the second quarter, Omer Onan made the game interesting by hitting two three-pointers in a row to complete an Efes turnaroundn to within 33-25. Efes started finding solutions in the offense, Marcus Brown and Mehmet Okur hit some imporant shots, and the Turkish team closed the gap to five points, 37-32, two minutes before the half. The Olympiakos defense flagged noticeable, as did point guard Thodoris Papaloukas's control of his team's rhythm. Efes looked to be coming back to stay. Finally, Brown dunked spectaculary over Savrasenko to close the first half at 42-36. Efes had gotten everything back - wits, pride, confidence - except the lead.
Starting the third quarter, Efes coach Oktay Mahmuti used three short guards (Brown, Onan and Karem Tunceri) to cut the defecit to its smallest thusfar, 44-41. At that moment, Ford proved why he is one of the best scorers in Europe. The 29-year-old shoting guard hit crucial baskets ain an 8-0 run that put Olympiakos back up 11, 52-41. Coach Ilias Zouros used his own three-guard lineup, with Ford, Milan Tomic and Eyinmisan Nikagbatze, which helped expand the lead further, to double digits again, 67-57. Even if Olympiakos didn't play that great, it was much better than Efes Pilsen. Ford, Forrest and Risacher executed pefectly, Papaloukas was very clever organizing the game and Savrasenko was decent in his duties. On the other hand, Kaspars Kampala and Saulius Stombergas were 'absent' for Efes, looking as thoughh they need time to adjust in their new team. As the difference raised to 15 points, 77-62, Olympiakos took the rest of the game in stride, knowing it can play much better, as can Efes.
Wednesday, October 10, 2001