On the eve of the Game 1 of the Euroleague quarter finals playoff, both coaches agreed that the opening game is the most important one. For Maccabi, having the home advantage, it was essential to win. Olympiakos hoped for an upset so that they will have the chance to close things up on Thursday in Piraeus.
Eventually Pini Gershon was the satisfied coach after his team won 87-78 in a game they dominated for most of the time, had a 15 pts lead in the third period but lost it and enabled the players of Jonas Kazlauskas to get on even terms with six minutes to go. But the last word was Maccabi’s big men who made sure that Maccabi will travel to Athens 1-0 up.
Two three pointers by Tal Burstein, put Maccabi 17-10 up. Olympiakos came back to 20-19 but a Will Solomon’s three pointer on the buzzer gave Maccabi a 27-23 lead at the end of the first quarter.
There were many question marks about Vujcic fitness. But he p[roved from the start that he meant business. He took a major part in his team opening a 47-37 lead and at half time 51-42.
Maceo Baston picked up his fourth foul two minutes into the third period. Sofoklis Schortsanitis had the same problem. A Vujcic three pointer gave Maccabi its biggest lead
63-48. But then suddenly Maccabi’s game was stuck. Quincy Lewis scored 5 successive points to cut the score to 65-60. At the end of the third period 70-62 for Maccabi.
Vujcic opened the final period with two more points (72-62). Once again Maccabi failed to capitalize. Olympiakos ran 10-0 and with six minutes and 25 seconds to go, the score read 72-72. Then it became Baston time. He scored 9 of Maccabi’s last 15 points. Solomon closed the game with two free throws 87-78.
Coach Gershon admitted later that he did not plan that Vujcic will be on the court for 36 minutes. But the way he played, gave him no option. Niko collected an Index Rating of 38 with 23 pts un 71% FG, 7 rbds, 5 asts’ 2 bsts and 9 fouls received. Anthony Parker was Olympiakos main target in defense. He scored only 10 pts but pulled down 8 rbds and dished out 3 asts..An excellent game also for Tal Burstein with 11 pts’ 5 rbds & 4 asts.
Other Maccabi scorers: Baston 15, Solomon 12 pts & 5 asts, Arnold 6, Sharp 5, Shason 5 pts.
Top scorers for Olympiakos: Edney 20, Seibutis 13 pts & 7 rbds, Vasilopoulos 13 pts & 6 rbds, Schortsanitis 10 pts & 5 rbds.
In the other games the home teams came on top: Winterrhur Barcelona - Real Madrid
72-58, CSKA Moscow - Efes Pilsen Istanbul 66-57 & Panathinaikos Athens – TAU Vitoria 84-72.