"In the first quarter, we played without intensity. It looked like we were tired, like we didn’t have desire, we didn't have motivation," Olympiacos Piraeus Coach Georgios Bartzokas said of his charges on Thursday night, after the Reds pulled out a 79-81 road win at Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade.
Olympiacos, which had upset FC Barcelona on the road just 48 hours earlier in a makeup game, trailed by as many as 16 in the first quarter, which ended 16-30. Bartzokas sent eight players onto the court in the first 10 minutes. Troubled by his team's struggles and Zvezda’s intensity, the coach needed to make a change. His solution was to use "more players who didn’t play a lot of playing time in Barcelona. Because we wanted to match the energy of Red Star," Bartzokas explained.
The strategy worked as Olympiacos was able to lean on two of the biggest stars in club history alongside a pair of first-year players to outscore Zvezda in each of the remaining three quarters. The EuroLeague's all-time leading scorer, Vassilis Spanoulis, was first to pick up the slack with 9 second-quarter points in helping close the gap to 45-37 at halftime.
Aaron Harrison drained 3 threes in the third quarter as the Reds turned the game on its head to lead 61-62. Also instrumental in the third were Giannoulis Larentzakis, who did not play at all in the first half and scored 5 in the third quarter, and Georgios Printezis who also scored 5. Larentzakis added a pair of triples in the fourth quarter, in which Printezis scored 7, including the game-winner in the closing seconds.
For the game, Olympiacos's reserves outproduced the starters in points (57-24) and rebounds (19-8). Printezis led the way with 16 points, Spanoulis scored 14, Harrison had 12 and Larentzakis 11. Kostas Sloukas, who amassed 12 points and 7 assists, was the only starter among the team's top producers.
The result is one that will surely trouble the Reds' future opponents, too. After the foursome of Hassan Martin, Shaquielle McKissic, Kostas Papanikolaou and Sasha Vezenkov combined for 54 points against Barcelona, they had 4 points versus Zvezda. And the Thursday night stars – Printezis, Spanoulis, Harrison and Larentzakis – scored a combined 9 in Barcelona. The message is that Olympiacos is as deep as any team in the league and opponents must prepare for any of the Reds 12 players to have a main role on any given night.