How thrilled is BallinEurope to see tonight’s Barcelona-Olympiacos final? Let us count the ways…
10. Both teams earned the trip with tough semifinal wins. Against CSKA Moscow, Barcelona played smart while deploying Europe’s best defense in 2009-10 against a much bigger Red Army team; Olympiacos truly gave everything in overcoming plucky Partizan Belgrade. The result: No contentions that referees decided this championship, no regrets of “what might have been” from losing team’s fans.
9. They deserve it. Now this is not to say that teams such as Partizan, CSKA and Maccabi Tel Aviv didn’t have truly outstanding Euroleague seasons in a year when none was supposed to go far at all, but to this point the Blaugrana and the Reds have proven themselves to be the class of European ball this season. And whoever wins this match will have a chance to prove it by opening up a Triple Crown opportunity for 2009-10.
8. Two words: Ricky. Rubio.
7. And one more word: Sofoklis!
6. Hey, BallinEurope is happy to take pride in its preseason prediction of a Euroleague final featuring these two teams. How often does BiE get one right? (Don’t answer that.)
5. Gianluca Basile gets a shot at redemption. Yeah, BiE has been dogging Basile – and coach Xavi Pascual for giving him so much damn court time – through much of this season, but the Italian has had an outstanding career in club and international play since debuting with Reggio Emilia back in 1995. Basile can finally take an elusive championship ring tonight and with solid play would erase some frustrating fan memories of this season.
4. BiE almost has the lyrics to “Thryle ton gipedon, Olympiake” down pat. For the Olympiacos-Partizan semifinal game, Reds fans packed the seats directly behind the media section and proceeded with the drum beating and hearty singing of their club anthem – one hour before tipoff, letting up only to sit at the edges of their seats for the thrilling final two minutes and overtime. I’ve always wanted to learn Greek.
3. Names like Rubio, Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Josh Childress, Linas Kleiza, Juan Carlos Navarro, and even Scoonie Penn will draw an American audience. Not that high viewer numbers from the United States really matters to Euroleague ball necessarily, but in the bigger picture it can only behoove European basketball to impress NBA snobs with the excellent game we’ve got going on on The Continent. This could well be a watershed game for the Euroleague in terms of international awareness.
2. It’s a classic clash of top offense vs. top defense. While FC Barcelona is redefining defensive excellence in the ACB, the Blaugrana have also been Euroleague’s second highest-scoring team. The first? Olympiacos, of course, which has preferred simply to outshoot the opposition all season long with their EL-leading 59.4% shooting on twos. After holding CSKA to a scanty 54 points on Friday night, one can only wonder what Pascual and Barça will cook up for a team averaging a whopping 87 points per game in 2009-10.
And the number one reason BallinEurope loves the Barcelona-Olympiacos final is … because, yes, we feel devotion!