SPORTS

Perfect record takes Olympiakos to next Euroleague stage

Olympiakos came once again from behind to beat Unicaja Malaga in Spain 82-74 on Friday, qualify to the next round of the Euroleague, and retain its perfect record in all competitions after 15 games this year, with Belgian-American Matt Lojeski proving the signing of the season.

The win keeps Olympiakos at the top of its group with six games played and four left and is the huge favorite to win it after the home loss Bayern Munich suffered to Zielona Gora on Thursday.

Lojeski (19 points) and Vassilis Spanoulis (21 points) helped Olympiakos overcome the Malaga lead that stretched up to 11 points. The Belgian kept the Reds alive in a poor first half, after which Malaga led by five points (46-41), while the Greek ensured the Reds would return with victory from Spain by scoring four three-pointers in the last six minutes.

The European champion responded to the 56-45 Malaga lead with a 27-9 partial score in 11 minutes to turn things around and win comfortably in the end, as Malaga could not notch up any more than nine points in the last period.

Yet while Olympiakos has managed to come from behind and win in almost half of its games this season, it becomes clear that it will not be able to retain its perfect record unless it becomes much more consistent.

For coach Giorgos Bartzokas, the poor defensive performance in the first half that resulted in 46 points conceded, and the 12 turnovers committed are two warning signs he cannot afford to ignore. He can at least take heart from the improved defense of the second half.