Olympiacos mauled Bennet Cantu 86-61
Olympiacos Piraeus BC found its way into the Top 16 from the maze in Group A by thrashing already-qualified Bennet Cantu 86-61 at home Greece on Thursday. Olympiacos and Cantu joined Caja Laboral and Fenerbahce Ulker in a four-way tie for first place, each with a 5-4 record. Olympiacos, however, would see all potential ties after Week 10 fall in its favor, thus ensuring its place in the Top 16. Cantu can rank anywhere from first to fourth in regular season Week 10. Vassilis Spanoulis was once again huge for the winners, with 22 points and 5 assists. This time he had plenty of help, too. Georgios Printezis added 16 points, Kyle Hines had 12 while Lazaros Papadopoulos got 10 for Olympiacos, which downed 63% of its two-point shots (29 for 46). Vladimir Micov led Cantu with 17 points. A three-pointer by Gianluca Basile gave Cantu a 9-12 margin midway through the first quarter but Spanoulis and Hines fueled an 11-0 run that allowed Olympiacos to get a 20-12 lead after 11 minutes. Denis Marconato, Micov and Nico Gianella regained a 26-27 edge for Cantu late in the first half. It didn't last long, however, as Printezis and Spanoulis fueled a game-changing 18-2 run that bridged the halves to give the Reds a 44-29 margin. Nothing changed from that moment, as the Reds boosted their margin to 72-51 midway through the fourth quarter and never looked back on their way to the Top 16!
Micov got Cantu going with an easy layup but Papadopoulos scored in the low post for a 2-2 tie. Marconato buried a baseline jumper but a three-pointer by Pero Antic gave Olympiacos its first lead, 5-4. Cantu had struggled to score for more than 2 minutes until Micov split free throws. The guests brought Giorgi Shermadini off the bench to improve their offense while Olympiacos could not get Spanoulis involved. Micov kept pacing Cantu with a jump hook but a power basket by Papadopoulos tied it at 7-7. Antic shined with a tip-in but Shermadini erased it with a mid-range shot and Basile struck from downtown for a 9-12 Cantu margin. Spanoulis scored in transition and split free throws to tie the game again, 12-12. Kalin Lucas shined with a layup off an inbound steal and an acrobatic driving basket by Kostas Papanikolaou made Cantu call timeout at 16-12. A buzzer-beating jumper by Hines gave Olympiacos a 18-12 margin after 10 minutes.
Hines made free throws to cap an 11-0 run and boost the Reds' lead to 20-12. Shermadini stepped up with foul shots but Olympiacos kept running the floor with a very dynamic frontline featuring Papanikolaou, Printezis and Andreas Glynaikadis. Printezis hit a jump hook but Micov erased that with an acrobatic reverse layup and a driving basket by Gianella got the guests within 22-18. Printezis bank in a close shot but Micov took over with an off-balance three-point play and a turnaround jumper by Marconato brought Cantu even closer, 24-23. Gianella and Spanoulis traded layups but a dunk by Marconato put the guests back ahead, 26-27. Olympiacos found its usual go-to guy in Spanoulis, who helped the Reds to regain a 30-27 lead. Kostas Sloukas shined with a coast-to-coast layup but Manu Markoishvili hit free throws for a 32-29 Cantu deficit. Printezis made 4-of-4 foul shots and added a buzzer-beating jump hook to fix the halftime score at 38-29.
Olympiacos kept excelling in defense right after the break, forcing Cantu to go scoreless for 3 more minutes. Meanwhile, back-to-back layups by Spanoulis and Printezis broke the game open, 42-29. Cantu kept struggling to find the way to the basket and a put-back basket by Papadopoulos forced the guests to call a much-needed timeout at 44-29, after a 12-0 run that bridged between both halves. Maarten Leunen scored down low but Spanoulis kept pacing the Reds with a jumper. Leunen struck from downtown but Papadopoulos sank his trademark hook shot and Evangelos Mantzaris for a 50-34 Olympiacos margin. Papadopoulos took over with a dunk but Nicolas Mazzarino answered with free throws. Lucas buried a three-pointer but a layup by Mazzarino and free throws by Gianella got Cantu a bit closer, 57-40. Hines shined with a put-back layup bt Gianella and Leunen made it a 15-point game, 59-44. A free throw by Hines and a seven-meter bomb by Papanikolaou boosted the Reds' margin to 63-44 after 30 minutes.
Olympiacos kept playing with high intensity at both ends, as every point counts in such a balanced battle to survive the most balanced group in regular season history. Antic beat the shot clock with a fallaway jumper but Micov matched thet with a driving layup. Lucas sent the crowd to their feet with a fast break layup off a midcourt steal. Markoishvili shined with a driving layup off a timeout but Spanoulis answered with a four-meter jumper in the lane. A red hot Micov and Hines traded three-point plays for a 72-51 score midway through the fourth quarter. Benjamin Ortner found his first points but free throws by Sloukas and a layup by Printezis boosted the hosts' lead to 76-53. Spanoulis sank a long jumper that forced Cantu to stop the game at 78-53. Markoishvili hit a floating jumper and Andrea Cinciarini added a jumper but it happened to be too little, too late for the guests, as Olympiacos had cruised to a convincing home win, and found its way from complicated Group A into the Top 16!
Thursday, December 15, 2011