By Antonis Stroggylakis / email@example.com
April 7, 2007. Baskonia hadn’t won in Piraeus against Olympiacos since that playoffs game that sealed their ticket to the Athens Final Four. For every match that came after, the Basque side counted 15 losses of all sorts to the Reds: Heartbreaks, overtime thrillers, blowouts.
Until tonight (26/11). Zoran Dragic scored a season-high 18 points and Pierria Henry added 17 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in an overall balanced offensive effort thanks to which Baskonia defeated shorthanded Olympiacos 90 – 76 to bounce back in style after a home loss to Zenit St. Petersburg and improve its record to 5-5.
“They are fighting hard so it is only right for me to try to push the rhythm,” pointed out Henry, “My statistics don’t mean anything, I am just grateful that we got the win, that we got a good road win and I just can praise my teammates, for real.”
“We played together. We started very well, aggressive,” added Dragic, “We know that Olympiacos is a great team, and if you don’t play aggressively, they go up and you lose the game fast. So we maintained this for all four quarters and won the game.”
Baskonia led from near-start to finish and often dominated the game, particularly in the first half when Dusko Ivanovic’s players even went up 21 – 43. Olympiacos improved its efficiency on both ends in the third quarter but Baskonia repelled every since comeback attempt of its opponents and prevented them from becoming truly dangerous.
Olympiacos had a chance to approach the game by a two-possession distance early in the fourth period but with the score 60 – 67 and eight minutes to play, Vassilis Spanoulis committed an unsportsmanlike offensive foul to Alec Peters that gave Baskonia the opportunity to score quick points. Dragic and Rokas Giedraitis then fired back-to-back triples that put their team ahead 60 – 77.
“We improved in the second half and closed the game to 7 points, but finally, when we had the possession and were to score with Spanoulis, it was a foul that was against us, flagrant, and from this call sometimes, at this level, we couldn’t have a second effort to win this game,” mentioned Reds head coach Georgios Bartzokas, “Anyway, this is the situation. We cannot cry, we are pros.”
Peters later drained the dagger with a 3-pointer to make his own points 16 and his team’s lead 71 – 84 with two minutes left.
“I think that after having the 20-point advantage, we lost our concentration a little bit,” said Dusko Ivanovic summing up the game, “We had 18-19 turnovers, which are so many for a EuroLeague game. But finally, I think we had a good effort to win the game.”
From Olympiacos, Kostas Sloukas and Giorgos Printezis scored 15 points apiece while Hassan Martin had 12 points and eight rebounds in an uphill battle inside the paint against Baskonia’s bigger bodies. Shaq McKissic added 12 points for the hosts that were minus Aaron Harrison, Octavius Ellis, Sasha Vezenkov and Livio Jean-Charles from the steady rotation players.
The Greek team put up a fight in the third period but eventually never reduced their deficit to lower than seven points. Achille Polonara was one of the main responsibles for Baskonia taking a 31 – 47 lead in the first half, by dropping 11 out of his 15 points in the last five minutes of the second period.
“We used a lot of tricks, defensively and offensively, but we knew that if we wanted to win this game, we needed, first of all, a better percentage for threes,” noted Bartzokas, “And also we needed to spend the fouls smarter than we did. We were afraid of that because we didn’t have a lot of players on the bench and gave them the opportunity in the first half to find confidence.”