Olympiacos hustle Valencia to victory, Euroleague round up

Olympiacos began their Euroleague campaign with a thrilling 71-68, Group D win at Valencia as Kostas Sloukas’ determination to get the loose ball after his own miss from the foul line sealed the victory. 

Kresimir Loncar scored inside for the hosts to tie the game at 66-66, and he repeated that feat from the foul line with less than a minute remaining. Sloukas gave Olympiacos a 69-68 edge, but following his missed free throw, outhustled Romain Sato for the loose ball with 5.2 seconds left. He hit both foul shots to give the 2013 Euroleague winners a 71-68 lead, which Valencia were unable to change. 

“We said before the game that if we wanted to control the game tempo, we had to control the boards, go for offensive rebounds and spend our fouls wisely until reaching the penalty,” explained Olympiacos interim coach Milan Tomic.

“We did a great job – I don’t remember now, but Valencia maybe scored one or two fast breaks in the entire game, and this is a team that likes to run a lot and even takes three-point shots in fast breaks.” 

Vassilis Spanoulis hit four triples, en route to a game-high 21 points for Olympiacos. Sloukas and Matthew Lojeski both added 14. 

Luke Harangody led last season’s Eurocup winners with 14 points.

The other Group D clash saw Red Star Belgrade score a 76-68 win over Galatasaray at the Kombank Arena. 

Boban Marjanovic secured a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double for the Serbians as they raced away in the second quarter after trailing 20-17 at the end of the first quarter. 

“Congratulations to my players,” Red Star coach Dejan Radonjic said. “Our supporters were really great, pushing us all the way. We played good defence against a team with the highest ambitions in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague. Some of my players are not 100 percent ready and that was the reason for our slow minutes in the second half. Our rhythm falled down but we managed to keep our winning margin.” 

Zoran Erceg had 17 points for Galatasaray. 

Euroleague champions Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv began their defence with a comfortable 92-76 win over Limoges at the Nokia Arena in a Group B clash. 

Despite winning all four quarters overall, Maccabi were not as convincing as the scoreline suggests but once the game was tied at 48-48 in the third by Jamar Smith, the Israeli giants sprung into life and the all-round execution of Maccabi proved too much for the French side to overcome. 

“We wanted to come out strong and do our best and get a win at home,” said Jeremy Pargo, who led Maccabi with 20 points. “We have a big game next week so we wanted to come out and get a big win.”

Unicaja Malaga were made to work hard but beat Cedevita Zagreb 78-63 in the other Group B game. 

Trailing 20-18 after the first quarter thanks to a buzzer-beating lay-up by Marko Tomas, Malaga quickly found their step and took the lead through a three-point play from Fran Vazquez. From there, the Liga Endesa side maintained their advantage despite minor scares. 

Ryan Toolson netted 20 points for Unicaja, with Vazquez finishing with 13 plus 8 rebounds. Miro Bilan hit 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as Cedevita missed Roko Leni-Ukic to injury.

The new-look Anadolu Efes started another season of Euroleague basketball with an 82-76 win over Unics Kazan in Istanbul. 

Dontaye Draper, who missed the Euroleague Final Four for Real Madrid with a broken hand last season, began life in Turkey with 16 points to lead Anadolu Efes to victory. Former CSKA Moscow forward Nenad Krstic added 15 in the win.

Keith Langford led Euroleague Qualifying winners Unics with 19 points. James White supported with 13 but it was not enough.