Strange sounds as Olympiacos top Panathinaikos

Tuesday’s Greek A1 League opening round game between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos was also going to be strange. Two of the biggest sides in Europe weren’t just playing early in the season, they were doing so in an empty house due to past crowd trouble. The derby of eternal enemies may not have had any fans in attendance but the SEF still had ample noise due to the PA. Watch the highlights and you’ll hear what I mean.

In a way it makes sense. The players are used to the PA blaring out their names whenever they score and music playing at the usual points in action. It just seems like the PA is talking to nobody, due to the whole empty arena. Normally the various tunes and rowdy calls from the announcer are done so with the fans in mind but with none there, he roared away anyway. Olympiacos won 55-45.


Olympiacos and Panathinaikos to meet behind closed doors in first round of A1 League

Euroleague champions Olympiacos will meet Greek champions Panathinaikos in the first round of the Greek League.

It’s going to be quiet in the SEF when the two biggest rivals in Greece square off in week 1.

The game will be played on 12 October before an empty house. Olympiacos is carrying a penalty that is forcing them to open the 2013/14 season by playing games behind closed doors following crowd trouble last season. In Game 3 of the Greek League Finals last season the match was abandoned with 1.27 left and eventually awarded to Panathinaikos 20-0. This gave the Greens a 3-0 sweep of the series. The return game in the OAKA will be played on 18 January.

Here’s the full list of fixtures for Round 1 of the 2013/14 Greek League:
KAOD vs Aris
Aries Trikala vs AE Nea Kifisia
Panelefsiniakos vs Panionios
Olympiacos vs Panathinaikos
Apollon Patras vs Ilisiakos
Rethymno Aegean vs Ikaros Chalkidas
PAOK vs Kolossos Rodou


From the free-for-all: Last week’s top five Euroleague acquisitions (plus one from the NBA)

Has it really been almost two months since the Euroleague Final Four? And when did the seasons in Spain, Greece, Italy and the NBA finish up? Time gets exceedingly relative and outright bendy once offseason transactioneering begins as memories of the previous year are quickly disposed for a look to the next and the money starts flying around.

Last week was a particularly noteworthy, headline-making span, particularly over here in Europe and especially if you’re interested in any player not named Dwight Howard. Here are BallinEurope’s five favorite moves of the previous seven days. (Is it wrong to say BiE already can’t wait for October?)

• Adam Hanga to Laboral Kutxa Baskonia. The career arc of the player destined to become Hungary’s all-time greatest continues: After developing in the Hungarian league followed by two seasons with Manresa of Liga Endesa, Hanga is set to make his Euroleague debut at age 24½ with Baskonia – and seems certain to surprise those not in-the-know with his across-the-board contributions; while Hanga will be having some minor surgery this week, he expects to miss no regular-season games. The four-year contract with Baskonia may yet keep Hanga here in Europe and out of San Antonio for a bit longer, which can be construed as good news (certainly for Continental ball followers) or bad (for the NBA supremacists).

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On Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, Giannakopoulos and the Greek League mess

The history books will forever record Panathinaikos as having won game three of the 2012-13 Greek League championship series over Olympiacos by a score of 76-72 to complete a three-game sweep. The reality, as is sadly so often the case in Greens-Reds match, was more complicated.

With just under a minute and a half remaining, an Olympiacos turnover gave Panathinaikos the ball. At this point, Reds fans unleashed their fury on the Greens’ bench for a scene well-known to those familiar with Greek basketball.

Game three therefore ended with refs calling the match with 87 seconds remaining; a request from the officials to clear the building went unheeded.

While some Olympiacos players admitted in defeat that “We did not play good basketball” (18-of-79 three-point shooting in the three games is one statistic fortifying that opinion) or that perhaps they’d been mentally/physically/emotionally exhausted by the Euroleague Final Four victories, but one cannot deny the assessment that “anything can happen in 87 seconds,” particularly when the side down by four points have proven to be Europe’s comeback kids these past two seasons.

The Red Planet report portrays a team “disrespected” by Greek League referees and, by extension, by league officials. Again, hard to deny, considering reports that Reds players were subject to the Wada Test some 15 times since last year’s playoffs – and with not a single positive result.

Said Kostas Papanikolaou in the post-game presser, as reported by Eurohoops: …we are deeply hurt by the rumors [...] that doping had to do with our Euroleague win. This is something that we didn’t deserve and it affected us.” Olympiacos coach Georgios Bartzokas bitterly stated that “A journalist, who is a joke, started a rumor and the Greek state changes its anti-doping policy. That says a lot about Greece. Nobody around Europe mentioned anything like that about us…”

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Vassilis Spanoulis’ Euroleague interview, photo: What’s the message?

Is Vassilis Spanoulis throwing down a gauntlet? As the Euroleague official website leads its interview with The Captain by describing him as having “taken his place among the all-time greats of basketball by leading Olympiacos Piraeus to just the second Euroleague repeat title in the last two decades,” the below picture appears on the site’s front page.

Given that Olympiacos’ trophy was taken in Britain, does anyone else sense a subliminal message here, perhaps to the rest of the ‘League…?

(Vassilis Spanoulis image courtesy Euroleague)

The entire interview with Spanoulis may be found here.

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Instant history: Olympiacos dominates last 30 minutes, tops Real Madrid, 100-88, for back-to-back titles

No matter which way this year’s Euroleague championship played out, history would be made with Olympiacos chasing a repeat championship and Real Madrid its first in 18 years. And as it turns out, fate’s scribe was writing with Red(s) pen: Once again, tournament underdogs Olympiacos ended up EL alpha dogs with a 100-88 win over Real Madrid for only the third repeat title of the last 25 years.

(Olympiacos BC image courtesy Euroleague)

Olympiacos: They are the champions — again

Real Madrid jumped out to an early lead as All-Euroleague first teamer Rudy Fernandez accounted for six points and two assists on his team’s first 10 points, finding Sergio Llull again and again; the two would combine for 16 in the first quarter alone. Los Blancos’ 27-10 lead after the opening stanza might have been considered enough against an ordinary team – but Europe’s comeback kids are hardly ordinary.

Pero Antic’s three to start the scoring in the second quarter got the Olympiacos fans back to their feet –more importantly triggering a 13-2 run with contributions from Kyle Hines and Kostas Sloukas to bring the Reds to within seven at 29-22. And highlight-reel Reyes-to-Slaughter alley-oop dunk aside, the Reds fairly well owned the second 10 minutes, outscoring Real 27-14

Of particular note in the second 10 minutes was Stratos Perperglou stifling Fernandez, limiting him to just two points on free throws; in fact, Perperglou’s defensive play was representative of Olympiacos’, as nearly half of the Madrid points (six) in the quarter were made at the line, while six Real turnovers were forced.

Vassilis Spanoulis, remarkably quiet for so long, finally broke his personal cold streak with a three after the first minute of the third quarter and a subsequent three would give Olympiacos its first lead at 48-45 – must’ve been something concocted at halftime … another run – this one 15-5 – appeared to have Real on the ropes in the third, but Los Blancos weren’t finished yet, momentarily retaking the lead at 56-55 after a pair of jumpers from Fernandez.

Among the highlights in a pressure-packed final five minutes of the third were two consecutive stops of Fernandez after he’d run up seven in the stanza already; among the lowlights, Sloukas assessed for a technical after flopping. Nikola Mirotic, uncharacteristically plagued with foul trouble earned his fourth PF – one of 10 committed by three members of the Real frontcourt – late in the third quarter as well. After 30 minutes, it was a new ballgame: 61-61.

With 90 seconds gone, Spanoulis reentered the court to palpable tension. A section of Reds fans maintained their trademark noise, but many were strangely silent while the Madridistas clung to edges of their seats.
The death blow may have come on a hidden play, as Acie Law forced Llull to bounce a dribble off his foot and into the backcourt – Spanoulis’ followup three would ultimately seal the deal from 70-62:

While Law and Sloukas and Georgi Shermadini went on to score from various spots on the floor, Jaycee Carroll’s three-pointer – just one of three Madrid shooting attempts in the fourth quarter’s first five minutes – stood alone as a Real success from the floor. By that time, the Reds’ lead had ballooned to 82-70 and the Spanish side simply did not have an Olympiacos-like miracle comeback in ‘em.

And no Spanoulis, either.

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Euroleague championship game: Official BallinEurope Fearless Predictions™

BiE’s got enough time to throw these out there, so here goes nothing … since in this debacle, we went with a final score of 72-60 – albeit with way wrong finalists picked – we’ll run with it: Olympiacos 72, Real Madrid 60, to complete the amazing back-to-back. And your Euroleague Final Four MVP will be … Kyle Hines.

(Regular readers of this ‘site of course realize what this likely means: Los Blancos take their first EL title since ’95 and, say, Felipe Reyes will take the individual award; wager accordingly.)

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Flashback to 1995: Real Madrid 73, Olympiacos 61

The last time Real Madrid and Olympiacos met in a Euroleague final? The last time Los Blancos won it all, in fact: 1995. The Euroleague’s official writeup of that year’s playoffs runs below the highlight clip, but more importantly check out the legendary legend Arvydas Sabonis putting in 23 points and grabbing seven boards in his last season before jumping the puddle to join the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA…

Real Madrid vs Olympiakos 73-61 Euroleague 1995…

(Euroleague.net) — In the summer of 1994, Zeljko Obradovic left Joventut due to financial reasons despite having won the European title in Tel Aviv. Real Madrid took the chance to sign the young coach everybody was talking about, owner already of two titles with two different teams: Partizan in 1992 and Joventut. The move proved providential for Madrid, since the Spaniards ended second in their group (9-5), only after Panathinaikos (10-4), and in front of CSKA Moscow and Scavolini, both with 9-5. In the other group, Limoges was first (10-4), Olympiakos second (9-5) Cibona and Buckler Virtus third and fourth (both 8-6). In the quarterfinals, only Real managed to sweep, beating Cibona 2-0, while Panathinaikos (vs. Buckler), Limoges (vs. Scavolini) and Olympiakos (vs. CSKA) each needed three games to advance.

In the Final Four, played again in Zaragoza, Spain, Olympiakos won the Greek semifinal for the second year in a row, while Real Madrid did not have any problems downing Limoges. In the final there were no doubts: Real Madrid was ahead by 10 points at halftime (38-28) and maintained its clear lead until the end, 73-61. Arvydas Sabonis, in his third and last year with Real before going to the NBA, finally won the European title that had escaped him at two previous finals: in 1986 with Zalgiris and in 1992 with Real Madrid. Now, the team which still has the most European titles, had its first title in 15 years.

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Considering BallinEurope’s (imaginary) ballot for Euroleague Coach of the Year

BallinEurope doesn’t actually get to vote for Euroleague Coach of the Year, but we can still pretend. And in BiE’s opinion, the question of who should get the honor comes down to three, interestingly enough each in his first season with his current club.

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