By Eurohoops team/ email@example.com
In front of a roaring crowd in Belgrade, Partizan defeated standings leader Olympiacos Piraeus 90 – 75 to improve to 17 – 13 and get one step closer to punching a ticket to the playoffs. Olympiacos now shares the top with Real Madrid at 21-9, holding the tiebreaker.
James Nunnally led five Partizan players in double figures with 19 points while Kevin Punter had 17 points, eight of them in the fourth period. Dante Exum provided 15 points plus four assists, Mathias Lessort posted 12 points and 10 rebounds while Ioannis Papapetrou scored 10.
“A good win, the fans were excellent, we played hard and tough and we’ve got to keep this up,” Nunnally said. “We’ve got four more games in the EuroLeague to get our spot in the playoffs. I think our defense was key – we set the tone, we were physical and aggressive. That set the tone early.”
Shaq McKissic (21 points) and Moustapha Fall (13 points, six rebounds) stood out from an Olympiacos team that was without head coach Giorgos Bartzokas and shot the ball extremely poorly with 3-20 3-pointers. The Reds hadn’t made a triple until the fourth period and when McKissic hit one following 0-15 from beyond the arc.
Leading EuroLeagus scorer Sasha Vezenkov was a non-factor for the Greek side, finishing with six points (3-9 shots), five rebounds and three assists. “We didn’t match up the energy, we didn’t match up the physicality,” said Christos Pappas, the Olympiacos assistant who was acting head coach vs. Partizan. “We didn’t match up the speed. And it shows in [their total of] 90 points.”
Partizan led 48 – 34 at halftime but a series of strong defenses by Olympiacos helped the visiting side approach 50 – 46 in the mid of the third period. That was the closest they got though since the hosts reacted and preserved a distance beyond two possessions.
With the score 67 – 60 and eight minutes to play, Partizan made a decisive 13-3 run down the stretch and retained a margin above double figures.
“If you beat the leader of the EuroLeague, it is a great victory, of course,” said Partizan coach Zeljko Obradovic. “Congratulations to my players. Except the third quarter, we played really good. Good aggressiveness. We allowed them to score easy points under our basket. This was the only problem, but generally [it was] a good game.”