Defense lifts Olympiacos over Khimki
Olympiacos Piraeus claimed its seventh consecutive home victory by breezing past Khimki Moscow Region and former coach Georgios Bartzokas 71-57 on Thursday night. The Reds led from start to finish and were up by 20 late in the third quarter, never looking in trouble despite a brief rally from Khimki early in the final stanza. Sasha Vezenkov and Kostas Papanikolaou led the scoring for the winning team with 14 points each. Nikola Milutinov – returning from illness – added 13 points and 7 rebounds. Jordan Mickey excelled for Khimki, pairing 21 points with 7 rebounds. Olympiacos improved to 12-7, while Khimki dropped to 7-12.
Three-pointers were the early order of the day, with Papanikolaou and Nigel Williams-Goss striking for Olympiacos while Anthony Gill responded for Khimki. The home team then pulled clear as Milutinov scored twice and Georgios Printezis netted three baskets in stretching the lead to 20-9. But Khimki came back with a 0-9 run bridging the end of the first and the start of the second quarters, culminating with a Tony Crocker three-pointer to make it 20-18. Papanikolaou finally ended the Olympiacos drought from deep and in a low-scoring quarter, Milutinov added an alley-oop and Janis Strelnieks beat the buzzer from long-range for a 32-22 halftime lead. Vezenkov and Crocker both scored twice early in the second half before Papanikolaou drained another pair of three-pointers and added a layup for a 48-28 lead. Strelnieks hit another buzzer-beater to make it 55-36 after three quarters. Mickey scored 7 quick fourth-quarter points and Gill netted consecutive baskets to bring Khimki back to 62-50 with 4 minutes remaining, but Vezenkov's long two stopped the comeback and Olympiacos cruised home.
Offensive go-slows in second quarter
Olympiacos looked to be on course for a blow-out after dominating the opening exchanges, but Khimki gave itself hope with an impressive defensive rearguard action in the second quarter, holding the home team scoreless for 6:31. However, Khimki then suffered its own offensive slowdown, finishing the half with only 4 points in 5 minutes to allow Olympiacos to sprint clear again.
Khimki sets unwanted record
That poor offensive spell contributed to an unwanted milestone for Khimki, which finished the first half with just 22 points: the lowest total in club history on the road in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Khimki made just 2-of-13 three-pointers in the first half and had only 4 assists while committing 8 turnovers.
Papanikoalou still hot from long-range
One player who had no trouble finding the basket on a low-scoring night was Kostas Papanikolaou. The experienced forward converted 4 of his 8 three-point attempts in a total of 14 points. He also scored 6 of 7 three-pointers in his team's thrilling home win over KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz last week, so he has now made 10 of 15 triples in his last two home games.
Olympiacos faces a show-stopping showdown against league-leading Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul in Turkey next week, while Khimki returns to Moscow to welcome FC Bayern Munich.
Thursday, January 17, 2019