OLYMPIACOS RETAIN EUROLEAGUE CROWN

euroleague Final 13 Olympiacos retained basketball’s Euroleague title at London’s 02 Arena, defeating Real Madrid 100-88 at the close of a frenetic final which swung back and forth before the underdogs stamped their authority in the fourth quarter and claimed their prize.

Vassilis Spanoulis, the Most Valuable Player of the game and of this season’s competition, scored all 22 of his points in the second half as the Greeks rallied from 17 down to lift the trophy for the third time in their history.

It was spell-binding, dazzling stuff. If nothing else, the Reds of Athens have a flare for the dramatic like few others.

“Life makes beautiful stories sometimes,” reflected victorious coach Georgios Bartzokas.

“Everyone at Olympiacos is part of a beautiful story. It was a very difficult competition with a very difficult situation with injuries. People were talking against us. And we reached this summit now. Today we showed again what is our belief in this team, our character, how we never say never, that we never give up.

“We can play different kinds of basketball. We can score 60 as against CSKA (in the semi-final) and score 100 like we did today. If you ask our secret, it’s our cohesion. We are united, and we are a big example to the whole of Greece, how we Greeks can make miracles if we work together. And if we don’t work together, we can destroy ourselves.”

An early 17-2 run, sparked by the former NBA player Rudy Fernandez, gave Madrid vital early momentum as they surged 27-10 clear. However, just as they did 12 months ago in Istanbul, Olympiacos came back from the dead.

They closed the gap to 41-37 at half-time and then edged ahead for the first time in the third period. Bit by bit, the holders negated their rivals strengths, bullying them into submission in the paint while seizing their opportunities on the perimeter.

Spanoulis: outstanding

Spanoulis: outstanding (Ville Vuorinen)

“In the first half, I was trying to figure out how they were playing me,” Spanoulis said. “In the second half, I came out aggressive because my team needed me.”

He dug into his reserves to come up with the necessary solutions, he said. It brought a devastating switch.

After the rivals were deadlocked at 61-61 with ten minutes left, Spanoulis inspired a decisive burst of nine consecutive points which ruthlessly suffocated Real’s hopes.

And with Acie Law adding 20, Olympiacos – who shot 66.7% – turned the screw in the closing minutes as their noisy hordes of supporters turned up the volume.

“We didn’t play so well in the beginning and didn’t put too much effort and energy in the game,” Dimitrios Katsivelis admitted.

“We improved our defence in the second half, made the open shots and won the game. It is too early to know which of the two Euroleague titles is more special. I am very happy and want to enjoy this moment.”

Fernandez paced Real with 21 but they came off distinctly second best as their initial gains were ruthlessly erased. Their 18-year wait for this honour will go on.

“Today is a sad day but to lose finals but you have to play finals,” declared Madrid head coach Pablo Laso.

Real faded away (Ville Vuorinen)

Real faded away (Ville Vuorinen)

“It was a game with a lot of physical contact with a lot of speed. It was a great game. We started off playing good. Our defensive plan was working well at the beginning of the game. We were making tough shots but for me, we got too much of an advantage.

“It was not that big difference in basketball because they were making shots.

“They increased the level defensively in the second quarter. They recovered. And the game changed on the first three plays of the third quarter. Spanoulis changed the rhythm. But we were still working to get back in the game.

“At the end they were able to control the defence that they had and got the championship.”

It came against the odds, not just with the bookmakers this weekend, but amid financial turmoil in Greece and within Olympiacos itself, forcing changes behind the scenes, off-court uncertainties and a degree of doubt that they had enough to live again with the very best.

In the first Final Four in the UK, they brought a shine to the proceedings and fireworks to finish. It was almost

“100 points is an amazing achievement,” Spanoulis smiled, shortly before being drenched – along with Bartzokas-  by his team-mates in the post-game press conference.

“I don’t think any other team has achieved it in the Final Four where defences are dominant. But this team has amazing chemistry. Everyone knows their role.”

The Greek gods were smiling. On Mount Olympus, they know the pleasure of heavenly delights.

3rd place play-off. CSKA Moscow 74-73 FC Barcelona

A pair of free-throws from Aaron Jackson with 29 seconds left proved decisive as CSKA Moscow gained the consolation of third place at Euroleague Final Four, edging out FC Barcelona 74-73.

However the Russians had to withstand a ferocious rally from their rivals who trailed by 13 in the third quarter before almost snatching victory.

After the sides were level at 35-35 at half-time, an immediate 13-0 run from CSKA threatened to blow out the short-handed Spaniards.

However Juan Carlos Navarro hit a three that brought Barcelona back to trail 59-54 entering the fourth. And in the final minute, La Bomba – racking up a game-best 17 points – dropped another three to give his side only their second lead of the game.

However Jackson held steady from the foul line and Marcelo Huertas failed to convert off the final play as Moscow held on, behind a team-best 16 points from Viktor Khyrapa.

FINAL – LIVE BLOG

Thanks for following. And remember, the game is on ESPN at 11pm.

It’s over. Olympiacos retain their European title with a brilliant second half showing in which they proved the better team. Plus that man Spanoulis is something else.

5:00 left in 4th: Shermadini makes three-point play to put Olympiacos up 78-70. Antic gets a tip in for 7-0 run.

Olympiacos lead 70-62 with 7:17 left. Spanouilis buries a 3-pointer. He has owned this second half. The Athenian massive go wild.

END 3RD: Real Madrid 61-61 Olympiacos. Fernandez 17 – Spanouilis, Law 12. It’s become a tough physical, brutal encounter. It’s now about making shots.

Olympiacos 57-56 Real Madrid with 2:09 left in 3rd. Now have have a final!

Spanoulis gives Olympiakos their first lead with a three and then a 15-5 run puts the champs 52-46 in front as we reach the midway point of the third.

HALF-TIME: Real Madrid 41-37 Olympiacos. Rudy Fernandez –  Acie Law 8. The champions are still alive.

Olympiacos cut their deficit to 33-28 with 2:49 left in 2nd despite…. Vassilis Spanoulis 0/5 FG, 2 turnovers and -11 RK.

Back come Olympiacos – 12-2 start to second period. 29-22 with 5:20 left. Their defence has ramped up several notches.

End 1st Real Madrid 27-10 Olympiacos Rudy Fernandez is bossing this game. He and Sergio Lliul have eight points each and Madrid and towering inside. The holders yet to find their rhythm at either end. But we know from 2012 not to write them off.

20:11 Real supporters banner, in Spanish, reads: “”If you don’t bring home the cup, you’ll be sleeping on the sofa.” There’s an incentive. They lead 13-5 with 5:11 left in 1st. Madrid bossing it inside.

Olympiacos 5-8 Real Madrid with 6:34 left in 1st. Consensus here is that it comes down to how gives you more: team play of Greeks or stellar play of Mirotic and Rudy for Real.

Starting line-ups Oly: Law, Spanoulis, Papanikolaou, Printezis, Powell. Real: Llull, Rudy, Suarez, Mirotic, Begic.

19:59 Arvydas Sabonis on court pre-game. Was part of the Real Madrid team which last won the Euroleague title in 1995. Here we go though. 252 games down. 1 to go….

19:48 Teams warming up. Fans making noise. Seats largely filled. And I made an appearance on BongoCam. As you do.

3rd place play-off. CSKA Moscow 74-73 FC Barcelona

A pair of free-throws from Aaron Jackson with 29 seconds left proved decisive as CSKA Moscow gained the consolation of third place at Euroleague Final Four, edging out FC Barcelona 74-73.

However the Russians had to withstand a ferocious rally from their rivals who trailed by 13 in the third quarter before almost snatching victory.

After the sides were level at 35-35 at half-time, an immediate 13-0 run from CSKA threatened to blow out the short-handed Spaniards.

However Juan Carlos Navarro hit a three that brought Barcelona back to trail 59-54 entering the fourth. And in the final minute, La Bomba – racking up a game-best 17 points – dropped another three to give his side only their second lead of the game.

However Jackson held steady from the foul line and Marcelo Huertas failed to convert off the final play as Moscow held on, behind a team-best 16 points from Viktor Khyrapa.

18:37 CSKA Moscow 68-65 FC Barcelona with 3:01 left

18:20 CSKA Moscow 59-54 FC Barcelona, End 3rd.

18:12 THE GREEKS ARE HERE! THE GREEKS ARE HERE! Finally some noise. And tip-off to the final is still two hours away. In other news, CSKA make a 9-0 run to go up 52.44 with 4:02 left in teh third.

17:42 Moscow 35-35 FC Barcelona HT

Quite entertaining first half between two teams with nothing really to play for. Certainly more CSKA fans seem to have stayed on. Arena slowly filling up.

17:16 Interesting stat from @Euroleague. Only Dejan Tomasevic won the Euroleague, Eurocup, FIBA World Championships and EuroBasket titles. Felipe Reyes and Rudy Fernandez would emulate him if Real Madrid win. Remember the final is on ESPN, on delay, at 11pm tonight.

17:00 FC Barcelona v CSKA Moscow

There’s vast swathes of empty seats for the third place play-off at The 02. Victor Sada and Nate Jawai are sitting out for the Spaniards.

Joventut win juniors

In an all-Catalan final to the Nike Junior International Tournament, Joventut Badalona pulled out a convincing 82-59 win over FC Barcelona with Alberto Abalde pacing the winners with 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting plus 9 rebounds.

An 8-0 run by Badalona early in the second quarter pushed their advantage to 33-21 and they moved 17 points clear by half-time.

And any hopes Barcelona had of a comeback were extinguished when Joventut went on a 15-0 run to go 61-31 clear with 4:30 to play in the third quarter, cruising to their first ever NIJT title.

For Barcelona Marc Garcia hit 18 points.

England finished with a 1-2 record, taking an excellent 78-61 victory over Spars Sarajevo in their final group game to come second. Luke Nelson had 20 points for the English Under-18s who will now turn their attention to this summer’s European Championships.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Print

You must be logged in to post a comment Login