Reds roar in Barcelona
Olympiacos Piraeus never trailed beating FC Barcelona 88-96 on Tuesday at Palau Blaugrana in a makeup game from Round 9. The Reds snapped Barcelona's nine-game home-court winning streak dating back to last season in improving to 65 on the season. The visitors jumped out to a 0-12 start and led by as many as 15 in the first half. Barcelona rallied to tie it at 77-77, but Olympiacos roared back and was too strong down the stretch. Hassan Martin scored a personal-best 17 points and grabbed 8 rebounds to pace the winner. Shaquielle McKissic added 16 points, Kostas Sloukas tallied 15 points and 10 assists, Kostas Papanikolaou scored 11 and Sasha Vezenkov 10. Nikola Mirotic paced Barcelona with 16 points, Brandon Davies scored 15 and Adam Hanga 10 as Barcelona suffered its second loss in its last three games to drop to 9-3.
Olympiacos came out on fire with different players scoring on each of its first four possessions while keeping the hosts scoreless. A Barcelona timeout changed little as Papanikolaou became the first man to score twice when he made a triple for a 0-12 lead. Mirotic finally got Barcelona going with a three from the corner only to see Charles Jenkins connect twice from downtown – both off of Sloukas assists – to give the Reds a 4-18 advantage. A second Papanikolaou triple gave Sloukas 5 assists and the team a 6-21 cushion. Kyle Kuric and Brandon Davies came off the bench to get the Barcelona attack going, but Martin matched them. Mirotic and Davies helped the hosts chip away at the deficit to get within 17-26 after 10 minutes. The teams traded shots early in the second quarter with Davies's put-back narrowing the gap to 26-32. Sergi Martinez scored twice and dished an assist in carrying the hosts to 38-40. McKissic and Martin teamed up to extend the margin back to 7, however, Mirotic scored twice and blocked a shot in the final minute of the half to send the teams into halftime with Olympiacos ahead 47-51.
Both teams cooled off at the break with a pair of Octavius Ellis free throws representing the only points scored in the first 3 minutes of the second half. The Reds heated up first with Sloukas restoring a double-digit lead before Papanikolaou's third three of the game made it 50-63. Alex Abrines scored 5 quick points to get Barcelona within 59-67 before Davies added another score on the offensive glass. Vezenkov hit back with a three and Sloukas added free throws to put the difference in double figures again, however, Leandro Bolmaro finishes the third quarter in style with a nifty floater to make it 63-72. Steals by Davies and Bolmaro on consecutive possessions had Barcelona within 71-74. McKissic atoned for his turnovers with a three-pointer, but Mirotic and Davies combined for the next 6 points to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter. The pressure only revived the Reds, who regained the lead through Marin before Aaron Harrison's three-point play made it 77-82. After a three by Abrines, Harrison came through again with a steal from Abrines, which became an unsportsmanlike foul when the latter dragged him down from behind. The resulting free throws and a McKissic triple gave the visitors an 82-89 lead with 2:20 to play. A pair of great defensive plays by Harrison and a jumper by Sloukas with 38 seconds remaining all but put the game on ice. However, Harrison missed twice from the line with 23 seconds left and Nick Calathes's layup made it 88-91 just 7 seconds later. Vezenkov secured the win from the line with 7.8 seconds on the clock.
Welcome back Harrison
Aaron Harrison had not played in over a month, but his feel for the game was back with three key defensive plays late in the game. Barcelona trailed 82-84 and had the ball with Alex Abrines eyeing a potential go-ahead triple when Harrison poked the ball loose with 2 and a half minutes to play. He grabbed the ball and was fouled from behind – an unsportsmanlike foul – after which he made 2 free throws and Shaquielle McKissic added a clutch three-pointer. Harrison was not done yet as Barcelona continued to challenge and less than a minute later he drew an unsportsmanlike foul. On the hosts' next possession, Harrison was forced into a mismatch on Brandon Davies, but again came through by slapping the ball away into the hands of Sasha Vezenkov for a key steal that led to a Kostas Sloukas jumper and helped seal the victory.
Hassan Martin had his best game yet in an Olympiacos uniform with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. More than his numbers, the big man, who played 28:29 minutes, was a force inside with his never-ending energy wearing down the Barcelona big men who tried to stay with him.
Olympiacos enjoyed an outstanding shooting night against a tough Barcelona defense. The visitors made 25 of 42 two-point shots (61.0%) and 10 of 23 threes (43.5%). The Reds also turned 9 offensive rebounds into 14 points and scored 23 points off of Barcelona's 14 turnovers.
Olympiacos stays on the road for another game this week when it visits Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in Round 13 on Thursday, December 10. Barcelona plays its next game at home on Friday against AX Armani Exchange Milan.
Tuesday, December 8, 2020