Live from the Palacio de Deportes, Madrid, Spain
Why Real Madrid Won
In his post-game press conference, Pablo Laso said he doesn’t think about the past. The look on his face wasn’t fooling anyone. With the wry satisfaction of someone who has faced doubts, criticism and heartbreak in consecutive Final Fours, he wiped away all of the hurt in two dominant, ruthless winning displays.
His teams have been built around the wizardry and flashiness of Sergio Rodriguez, Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Llull, but it was the role players who won this weekend, and Real Madrid’s first Euroleague title for 20 years. Andres Nocioni took the MVP with a pair of game-changing spells off the bench. Laso said at the beginning that he has thirteen stars, as he stumbled over his emotional opening statement. It was certainly the case that the whole rotation had to step up. Jonas Maciulis hit a pair of outrageous threes over outstretched hands in the first half. Jaycee Carroll, who led Madrid with 16 points, 4-of-5 from behind the arc, hit three triples in the third quarter right after Olympiacos came back from 11 down to lead by one. The third of those was ridiculous, with two red jerseys hanging off him on the right wing.
Olympiacos hadn’t played particularly well in the semi, arguably until the final quarter, but the bogeyman hanging over everything was Vassilis Spanoulis in a close game. Madrid followed CSKA’s lead in sending their bigs out to chase him on the perimeter, and mostly it worked, especially as the game wore on and fatigue may have crept in. One of the first plays of the game, Spanoulis blew by Felipe Reyes on the switch and kicked to a wide open Printezis for a corner three. The shot missed, but it was a great sign for the Reds. They finished 5-of-26 from three, some well contested but several great looks just didn’t go down as Madrid pulled away in the fourth. Even Ioannis Bourousis, in a five minute cameo, managed to contain his former teammate on the perimeter. When two white jerseys chased him all the way to the sideline, the pass didn’t always find its way to the wide open shooter. It was a calculated gamble, but it paid off. A quiet triumph for Laso, amongst many.
The first half was defensive and stroppy, as frequent whistles stopped the flow. Olympiacos did a great job switching off the ball, fighting through screens and disrupting Madrid’s off-ball movement. Slow that down, and you have a decent chance of stopping Madrid. They couldn’t keep them out forever though, and Maciulis, Carroll and Nocioni’s long bombs came mainly over great contests. Just as in the semi-final, sometimes there’s nothing you can do to stop great shotmaking.
Olympiacos only trailed by seven at the break, limiting Madrid to the 35 points they put up in half that time against Fenerbahçe. It looked like they held another advantage inside too, with Felipe Reyes and Gustavo Ayon in foul trouble, but Ayon came back after halftime to force his influence, bodying up and ripping the ball away from Dunston. A 12-0 run off the back of Printezis. Sloukas and Lojeski gave renewed hope but that’s when Madrid’s less-celebrated stars proved they deserve the headlines. Rudy and Llull sat as Carroll, Chapu and Maciulis brought Madrid home.
Pablo Laso sat and smiled. He may be a while until he stops.
Why Olympiacos Lost
It’s not the end of era but it’s the end of an undefeated Final Four era. Olympiacos, after being the underdog and coming through with a Championship in both Istanbul and London, just didn’t have enough to pull it off a third time in Madrid.
We can start with Vassilis Spanoulis. The King of the Clutch and the one who carried Olympiacos to a victory over CSKA Moscow in the semi-finals just wasn’t in top form this weekend. Besides that three minute and thirty six seconds stretch in crunch time vs CSKA, he was unable to make plays all weekend. In the Finals Jaycee Carroll constant pestering led to many, many missed off-balanced jumpers. He shot 5-of-20 from the field this weekend with four of those baskets coming in crunch time versus CSKA. He had three points in thirty one minutes versus Real. THREE!
And while Spanoulis was unable to put on his superman cape, the rest of the team didn’t pick him up either. Real Madrid is a high powered offense and there are times in the game you have to go punch for punch with them, blow for blow, and Olympiacos couldn’t. In the fourth quarter when Olympiacos was trying to mount their second comeback of the evening Spanoulis, Georgios Printezis, Vangelis Mantzaris all missed open three point shots. Real kept scoring but Olympiacos without their superman attracting tons of attention, couldn’t figure out how to get in a rhythm.
Matt Lojeski was insanely hot in the first quarter, he had ten points in the opening session but he was not found for any heat checks late in the quarter or early in the second. Even when an Olympiacos player was on, they couldn’t find a way to fully capitalize on the moment.
And that’s what Olympiacos had in this game, moments. Moments of success. A Lojeski three, an Othello Hunter dunk, or a Kostas Sloukas drive. But they couldn’t find a way to string it all together over a consistent span of time. And when you are playing a team with more talent, you need to come up with more than just a few moments of success to get the surprise victory. And tonight, Olympiacos didn’t have enough to come through with the surprise.
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