|13 May 2013|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Scoring no points in the first half, Vassilis Spanoulis went on to finish with 22 points for Olympiacos|
Olympiacos defeated Real Madrid 100-88 in the title game of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four in London on Sunday night to conquer their second consecutive title and the third in their history in the competition.
Since the Final Four was introduced in 1988, only Jugoplastika (KK) Split and Maccabi Tel Aviv had managed to win back-to-back titles, with the Croatian side actually winning three in a row.
Olympiacos captain and Greek international Vassilis Spanoulis, who was also named Final Four MVP on Sunday, has now joined Crotian legend Toni Kukoc as the only players to have won the award on three occasions (Spanoulis's first was with Panathinaikos in 2009).
While Greek clubs have won nine Euroleague titles in total (Italy has 13 and Spain 11), Olympiacos boss Georgios Bartzokas became on Sunday the first Greek tactician ever to lift the trophy as a head coach.
In last season's final against CSKA Moscow in Istanbul, the Greek team completed the biggest comeback in Euroleague history when they fell behind by 19 points in the third quarter but turned the tables to win 62-61.
On Sunday, Olympiacos showcased once again their impressive capacity to rise to the occasion in big games and prevailed in a highly entertaining title clash, the third highest-scoring final in the last 44 years, after trailing Real by 17 points at the end of the first quarter.
The Madrid side's performance in the first ten minutes of the encounter was dream-like perfect at both ends of the floor and they led 27-10, having made eight of their first 10 field goal attempts.
Olympiacos however started the second quarter on an 8-0 run that forced Real head coach Pablo Laso to call his first time-out.
With their defensive intensity and physicality levels seemingly rising on every possession, the Greeks reduced the gap to 37-34.
As former Greek international Stratos Perperoglou missed a three-point attempt to tie the scores, Spanish international point guard Sergio Rodriguez gave Madrid some much-needed breathing space from the free throw line, 55 seconds from the half-time buzzer.
Whilst the scoreboard at the interval was showing that the Spanish giants were up 41-37, they had already lost the momentum, as Olympiacos outscored them 27-14 in the second period.
Spanoulis, who had gone through the entire first half without scoring a point, made sure Olympiacos would take advantage of this turn in tide and also tip the scores to their favour, immediately upon return from the locker rooms.
He hit two consecutive triples to give his team a 45-43 lead, their first since the opening minute of the game, but U20 Spain international Nikola Mirotic tied the scores immediately with an excellent spin move in the low post.
On the next possession however Spanoulis sunk a third big shot from behind the arc and Olympiacos went up again, 48-45.
|Kostas Papanikolaou is one of the Olympiacos players to have won back-to-back Euroleague titles with the club|
Olympiacos increased the gap to six points midway through the third quarter, but Spanish star Rudy Fernandez drained a triple in transition and restored Madrid in the lead, 56-55, 3:01 before the third buzzer.
It was however the last time in the game that Real would enjoy the view from the driver's seat, as Olympiacos tied the scores at 61 at the end of the period and pulled ahead in the fourth.
Spanoulis came off a screen and hit a triple from the top to cap a 9-1 Olympiacos run at the start of the final frame and make it 70-62, the biggest lead for the eventual champions on the night up to that point, 7:17 before the final buzzer.
Two free throws by Jaycee Carroll reduced the gap to 75-70 with 5:40 on the clock but an and-one play by Georgian international Georgi Shermadini restored Olympiacos's eight-point lead and ignited a 9-0 run for the Greeks that was capped with a steal and dunk from Kostas Papanikolaou that made it 84-70, 4:39 from the end.
In a last-ditch attempt, Madrid mastered the energy to go on a 6-0 run but Spanoulis ended their hopes of a comeback with a huge triple from eight metres out that made it 90-79, 1:40 from the end of the game.
Spanoulis led all scorers with 22 points on five-for-nine three-point shooting and added four assists; Acie Law kept the champions in the game in crucial moments and finished with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists; Kyle Hines had 12 points and five boards while Kostas Sloukas chipped in with 11 points and Perperoglou with 10.
Fernandez finished with a team-high 21 points and added three rebounds, three assists and two steals for Real, while Sergio Rodriguez had 17 points and Sergio Llull 14 points, adding four assists each in losing efforts.
Earlier in the evening, CSKA claimed third spot on the podium, defeating FC Barcelona Regal 74-73, as Juan Carlos Navarro failed to get off a desperate final attempt to win the game before the buzzer.