Papanikolaou, LeDay inspire Olympiacos in OT
Olympiacos Piraeus roared back for a remarkable 91-87 overtime victory against visiting KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz in a thriller on Tuesday at the Peace and Friendship Stadium. Baskonia led for much of the game behind an outstanding one-two punch from point guards Marcelinho Huertas and Luca Vildoza, who scored 17 and 19 points, respectively. But Olympiacos never gave up, rallying late behind an outstanding Zach LeDay and forcing overtime through Kostas Papanikolaou's fifth three-pointer with 3 seconds remaining. Olympiacos surged clear in the extra period, as Papanikolaou finished with 22 points and 6 rebounds, LeDay tallied 23 points and 9 boards, and Georgios Printezis had 19 points with 5 assists. Nigel Williams-Goss recorded 17 points and 6 assists. There were two double-doubles for Baskonia: Vincent Poirier scored 17 points and claimed 12 rebounds, and Johannes Voigtmann had 10 points and 10 boards.
Three men dominated the early going. For Olympiacos, Papanikolaou scored a pair of triples and Printezis netted a trio of two-pointers, but Poirier responded with three baskets at the other end to keep the visiting team close. Darrun Hilliard scored twice in a row for a 20-22 Baskonia lead at the end of the first quarter. Williams-Goss and LeDay turned it around for the hosts, but Hilliard and Matt Janning soon hit Baskonia's first three-pointers for a 26-30 edge. A pair of threes from Williams-Goss sparked Olympiacos again, but a triple from Voigtmann capped a 0-7 run to keep Baskonia ahead. Huertas drained another three and it was 43-47 at half-time. Huertas and Poirier kept Baskonia ahead early in the second half, but 2 blocks and 2 three-pointers from Papanikolaou tied the score, and Printezis sent the home team ahead as Baskonia was held scoreless for 5 minutes. Vildoza ended the drought and a layup from Poirier helped make it 55-62 after three quarters. A trio of hustling baskets from LeDay brought Olympiacos to life, and a triple from Williams-Goss made it 66-68. A three-point play and tough three-pointer from Vildoza reignited Baskonia, but Printezis and the inspired LeDay made it close again. Williams-Goss pulled it back to 73-74 from the free throw line as Poirier fouled out, before Vildoza drained another triple with a minute left. But Papanikolaou's miraculous triple forced overtime with 3 seconds remaining, and he then started the extra period with another three-pointer. Printezis and LeDay made it 87-82 and a tip-in from LeDay sealed the deal.
LeDay steps up to replace Milutinov
Olympiacos received a blow before tip-off when red-hot big man Nikola Milutinov, who had won two of the previous four MVP of the Round awards, was ruled out of action with a fever. That required Zach LeDay to step up and he responded with a huge performance, leading the game with 23 points and attacking the glass to register 6 offensive rebounds. He also forced Baskonia big man Vincent Poirier into fouling out and missing the crucial closing minutes.
Tale of two halves for Baskonia
The absence of Milutinov gave Baskonia an opportunity to dominate the paint, and the Spanish side initially took full advantage with a remarkable display of accurate inside shooting. Baskonia netted 10 two-pointers in the first quarter alone, without making a single triple, and reached 16-of-18 from inside the arc by half-time. But that all changed in the second period, with Olympiacos stiffening its defense and holding the visitors to 10-of-24 from two-point territory the rest of the way.
Papanikalaou impersonates Spanoulis to perfection
With customary crunch time hero Vassilis Spanoulis only playing 11 minutes and staying on the bench during the final stages, Olympiacos needed somebody else to step up. And it was Kostas Papanikolaou who did the job, making his fifth three-pointer of the night to force overtime through an incredible off-balance shot with 3 seconds remaining. And if that wasn't enough, he promptly opened the overtime scoring with another three-pointer to claim a new career-high 22 points.
Both teams are back in action later this week, with Olympiacos travelling to Real Madrid for a high-profile rematch of the 2015 championship game on Thursday. Baskonia returns home for a Spanish derby against Herbalife Gran Canaria on Friday.
Tuesday, January 8, 2019