SPORTS

Defense lets Olympiakos down at Madrid

By George Georgakopoulos

Olympiakos played second fiddle to Real Madrid in a rather spectacular game in Spain on Tuesday going down 88-71 to trail 1-0 in the best-of-five quarterfinal series with the Spanish giant.

The Spaniards chose to face Olympiakos and not Panathinaikos in the quarterfinals of the competition as in the last round of games of the regular season it lost to bottom club Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania so that it would finish second in its group and pair up with Olympiakos in the process that grants tickets to the Final Four in Milan.

Although what it did at Kaunas was not flattering at all for its prestige (or the prestige of the Euroleague for that matter), Real will feel vindicated for its choice of opponent in the playoffs, as it proved hard for Olympiakos to handle the run-and-gun game of its host at the Palacio de los Deportes court of the Spanish capital on Tuesday.

Despite the return to action from injury for Giorgos Printezis, Olympiakos got little from its small- and power-forwards, as neither Printezis nor Stratos Perperoglou nor Matt Lojeski did rise to the occasion.

A tremendous first quarter for the host gave it a 27-12 lead that Olympiakos tried to reduce toward the end of the first half, getting to level the score at 40-40, before going to the locker rooms seven points down (48-41).

Real pulled away in the third period, stretching its advantage to as many as 17 points (66-49) to enter the last quarter with a 14-point lead (70-56), in a disappointing performance for the European champion’s defense. The last quarter merely served to seal Olympiakos’s fate in the night, though nothing is lost yet for the Greeks.

Captain Vassilis Spanoulis stood out with 18 points for the Reds.

Game 2 of the series will take place at the same court on Thursday evening.

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