Euroleague: Olympiacos completes Final Four


Anadolu Efes’ Kerem Tunceri looks over his options while Vassilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos prepares to defend.

The 2011-12 Euroleague Champions will be joining FC Barcelona Regal, Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague Final Four to be held at the O2 in London on May 10-12. With a come-from-behind 82:72 win over Anadolu Efes, Olympiacos Piraeus will square off against CSKA Moscow in the semifinals on Friday, May 10, with the title game taking place on Sunday, May 12 at 21:00 CET. The other semifinal contest will pit the two Spanish clubs, FC Barcelona Regal and Real Madrid against each other, assuring one of the to Euroleague Finalists will be from Spain.

In their decisive Game 5 against Efes, things weren’t looking favorable for the Reds as their guests put together some solid offense and got up by 15 mid-way through the second frame. As their head coach, Georgios Bartzokas, said in his post-game interview, “From our side, we had to show once again patience and perseverance.” With those two P’s, they were able to chip away at their deficit and in the fourth quarter had pulled even, but they still had to close the deal, which is when a timely 16:5 run late in the fourth quarter came in handy.

For their part, Anadolu Efes put a cap on a remarkable Euroleague post-regular season that included getting out of the Top 16 and taking the defending champions to Game 5 of their best-of-five series. All that came after they finished 5-5 in the regular season.

The first quarter was very evenly played with Efes getting a small advantage mid-way through. The key to the quarter was Josh Powell knocking down a triple as the buzzer sounded to cut the hosts deficit from five to two, 21:23.

Things got ugly for the Reds in the second as Anadolu turned up the pressure on defense holding the Greece club from scoring for nearly five minutes, while running off 13 straight to get up by 15 at the mid-way point. With just over a minute to play in the first half Kostas Papanikolaou connected on a long-ball to cut the lead to 10, 30:40. After Dusko Savanovic split a pair for singles, Kyle Hines grabbed the rebound from the one he missed and got the ball down the court. As they set up a play to run out the clock, the ball got loose and ended up going through a couple of sets of hands before settling with Vassilis Spanoulis, who dished to Papanikolaou, who put up three more points right before the quarter ending-buzzer for the Reds, to cut the Efes advantage from 11 to 8 as they headed to the dressing rooms at the intermission.

Efes worked their way back to a 12-point advantage and then the lids hit the top of the basket and they had a hard time putting points on the board. Olympiacos went on a 14:2 run, which had an exclamation point dropped on at the end when Spanoulis hit a deep three to knot the score at 49. The clubs exchanged baskets for the rest of the quarter until Kerem Gonlum hit two free throws to give Efes a one-point lead heading into the final 10.

The first seven points of the fourth quarter went to the Reds as Pero Antic opened scoring with a three-ball, then Acie Law dropped in a lay-up and Stratos Perperoglou hit a jumper to put the defending champs up by six, 61:55. Mid-way through the quarter, with Efes down six, they hit seven straight to retake the lead, 66:67. Spanoulis put down a lay-up, and Georgios Printezis drained a long-ball and followed-up with a jumper, to get Olympiacos up five, 73:68. Efes didn’t help their cause at the free throw line, going 12 of 19 on the night, many of the misses coming down the stretch, both Joshua Shipp and Semih Erden split a pair of singles, bringing Efes within three, 73:70, but Acie Law delivered what would be the fatal blow when he hit the cords with a triple to put the Reds up six, 76:70. Printezis and Spanoulis both also split a pair of free throws, giving the hosts an eight-point margin. Jamon Lucas stole the ball from Spanoulis and threw down a dunk, but it was too little, too late as they ran out of time on their Euroleague season and Olympiacos began their celebration on their return to the Final Four.

“It is always very difficult for any reigning Euroleague champion to make back-to-back Final Four appearances. The season was too tough and long, that’s why all the teams had to deal with the ups and downs. We didn’t start well both in defense and offense, but we found the path to the victory. Now we are going to London to play our basketball. We are the defending Euroleague champions and we will do everything possible to be successful there. We have to play freely, with heart, good tactics and, hopefully, with some luck. ” –Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos Piraeus

The 2011-12 Euroleague Championship MVP, Spaloulis, was game-high for Olympiacos with 19 points and 5 assists. Printezis contributed 15 points and 7 rebounds to the win.

Lucas was the leading scorer for Efes with 14, adding 6 rebounds, and 5 assists to his night. Savanovic added 12 points and 6 rebounds, and Jordan Farmar scored 11 points.

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