By Eurohoops team/ email@example.com
Sasha Vezenkov scored 18 out of his game-high 23 points in the second half while hitting key buckets in the fourth period as Olympiacos Piraeus beat Anadolu Efes 76 – 70 at home to extend its winning streak to 5-0 and remain at the top of the standings.
Michalis Lountzis emerged as a key factor for Olympiacos with career-highs 13 points plus seven rebounds. He got extra minutes and duties, in light of the absence of star guard Kostas Sloukas (back) for a second straight game.
“I’m really exhausted, but I will not talk about myself or the game,” Vezenkov said. “I will talk about Mike Lountzis, what he did today and what he’s doing lately to step into the shoes of, for me, the best pure point guard in Europe right now.”
Vezenkov had seven of his points over the last five minutes to repel an Efes team that was trying to come back after trailing 59 – 43 in the third period. He hit a triple for the 79 – 70 and made the bucket for the 76 – 68 with 1:33 to play.
Rodrigue Beaubois cut the deficit to 76 – 70 and then saw the ball rolling out of the rim in a long-range attempt with 29 seconds to play. Olympiacos retained its advantage and Efes dropped to 11-12. This was the second loss in the last six games for the back-to-back champions.
Shane Larkin (10 points, five assists), Bryant Dunston (10 points), Vasilije Micic (10 points) and Beaubois (10 points) scored in double figures for Efes.
“For three quarters we didn’t play well. In the last quarter, we played aggressive defense and tried to come back,” Efes coach Ergin Ataman said. “But [Sasha] Vezenkov made a great game and found some very difficult shots. Offensively we didn’t find a solution except Rodrigue Beaubois. Olympiacos maybe didn’t play a very good game but they deserved to win, congratulations.”
Olympiacos coach Giorgos Bartzokas was pleased to see Lountzis contributing in the way he did. “Bearing in mind that we didn’t have a deep bench, playing without Kostas Sloukas, Alec Peters and George Pappas, we had 11 players,” Bartzokas said. “Everybody had to step up and contribute. Michalis Lountzis did a great game today, and everybody contributed to get this very important win. We are close to qualifying for the top eight and I think if we win two or three more games we will reach our first target.”