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.
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.