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Sep
0

Belgium Spoils Latvia’s party, Ukraine advance

It was set to be a dramatic day in the final round of action of Group E but Belgium played the spoiler with a heroic display against Latvia.

Somebody in the Ukraine camp should buy a round for the Belgian team. The Lions were only playing for pride on Sunday against Latvia but treated it like their lives depended on it. After an uninspiring first half, the game came to life with a surge by Belgium. Leading by 9 points with 5 minutes to go in the final frame, the result looked in the bag but Latvia came to life down the stretch.

Latvia managed to cut the deficit to a single point in the final minute and looked set to sneak out with a win. When a misplayed pass by Belgium gave Latvia possession with 38.5 seconds left, the stage was set for the favourites to escape. Belgium’s defence stood firm however and Latvia opted to let them play it out rather than fouling quickly. Sacha Massot made them pay with a dunk to stretch the lead to 59-56 with just 8 seconds left. Dairis Bertans went for a three to tie it up but he missed and the upset was in the books. Belgium win 60-56.

For Latvia it was a dire example of live by the three die by the three ball. Having shot 15/29 to rout Ukraine on Wednesday, they went just 5/29 from long range. This compounded their overall issues from the field where they finished with just 29.4 per cent shooting.

The result means Sunday’s other two games in Group E, Ukraine vs Lithuania and Serbia vs France, will only decide seedings for the next round. Had Latvia won then Ukraine would have needed to beat Lithuania to progress. Instead Pooh Jeter and company progress to the quarter finals for the first time in their history, quite a feat for a nation whose previous best was 13th back in 1997.

It’s a glass half empty situation for Latvia. Prior to the tournament they wouldn’t have been fancied to make the quarter finals but having seemingly done all the hard work, they let the chance slip through their fingers on Sunday. Few would have blamed Belgium if they eased off in this game having already been eliminated but they showed tremendous respect for the tournament with their display. Having fought hard against Lithuania and Serbia, the Lions finally got some reward for their efforts. This was Belgium’s first time in the second round since 1977 and there have been some dark days in between. On Sunday they made good on the development they have shown and spoiled Latvia’s party in the process.

May
40

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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May
0

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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May
0

Georgios Bartzokas: “We have to forget the CSKA Moscow game immediately”

Below runs the official EL interview with Olympiacos head coach Georgios Bartzokas going into his team’s championship game against Real Madrid. Certainly a candidate for 2013 Euroleague Coach of the Year honors, Bartzokas had never taken a team past the Top 16 round previous to this season – but one couldn’t discern this from either the excellent gameplan he drew up for the Reds in the semifinal match or his incredible sangfroid in this clip…

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May
1

Jaycee Carroll: “We’ve got to match Olympiacos’ aggressiveness”

The attention Jaycee Carroll got on Saturday’s open media time was well out of proportion to his playing time on Friday night. In about 22 minutes (much of it in garbage time; then again, much of the game was garbage time, ultimately), Carroll contributed just two points – well done from his double-figure scoring averages this season – to Real Madrid’s immolation of CSKA Moscow. Below, a minute with one of the Madridistas’ friendliest, most engaging players…

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May
1

Marcus Slaughter: “This is the biggest game of my career”

Real Madrid’s Marcus Slaughter feels good despite facing the pressure of what he calls – and what unquestionably is – the biggest game of his seven-year professional career. Olympiacos might want to take note, as the defending champs could well have matchup problems in facing up against this athletic big man … particularly if, as he says, speed will be the key to a Euroleague title in 2013…

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May
1

Euroleague Final Four semifinals: Top five plays

Right, then, here’s the big league’s official “best of” clip from last night’s semifinal games, starring Rudy Fernandez, Marcelinho Huertas, Juan Carlos Navarro, Giorgi Shermadini and Nenad Krstic with his only two points in CSKA Moscow’s debacle…

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May
0

Live blogging Euroleague Final Four: FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid

After a disappointing no-show by CSKA Moscow in the first Euroleague Final Four game, BallinEurope hopes that the clash of Spanish basketball superpowers lives up to the “Il Classico”…perhaps the biggest news/speculation regards Nathan Jawai, who was such a force in the playoff round for Barca; at least one Spain-based source claims that the big guy will not play at all. With Pete Mickael already out, this cannot be good news.

As for Real Madrid, it seems like ages since they last suited up for a Euroleague game. Will the long respite hurt or help?

Follow along below with BallinEurope and comment at will; enjoy the game, all!

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May
1

Live blogging Euroleague Final Four 2013: CSKA Moscow vs Olympiacos

Okay, so BallinEurope supposes it’s not technically “live blogging” per se, but here will follow live textual coverage of the first Euroleague Final Four game for 2013. And though to man, the Red Army denies any psychological impact or residue of revenge motivates them this game, BiE can’t help but think the disappointment of 2012 isn’t somewhere in mind…

And so what can Euroleague MVP Vassilis Spanoulis engineer this time? We’ll find out very soon now. Join in on the chat here at BallinEurope.com and enjoy the game!

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May
0

Quote of Euroleague Final Four tournament: “I think I did a great job of being Sonny Weems this season”

The eminently quotable Sonny Weems was in fine form before his club’s matchup with Olympiacos in Euroleague Final Four play. See below for his talk with media members in which he downplays the revenge factor going into tonight’s game (of course, Sonny was not one of the half-dozen players who ended up on the wrong side of the big league’s biggest championship upset ever) and speaks of the difference between playing for CSKA Moscow and Žalgiris Kaunas.

And finally, for those who assume that any player worth his salt would automatically eschew European basketball for the NBA, watch to the end for a hint on Weems’ future with the Red Army. (Hint: CSKA fans should be stoked indeed…)

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