By: Nick Gibson, Sam Meyerkopf and Rob Scott
Olympiacos pulled off what will go down as the most dramatic Euroleague Final comeback in history to shock CSKA Moscow 62-61 on a Giorgios Printezis floater with 0.7 on the clock after Ramunas Siskauskas missed a pair of free throws with 9.7 remaining.
Olympiacos trailed by 19 points in the second half and 13 going into the fourth quarter. A pair of threes from Mantzaris and Sloukas on either side of the final break had cut it to 10 when Hines blocked a Gordon short jumper. Printezis bullied Khryapa in the post to cut it to eight. Another CSKA turnover and a Keselj three from the left wing and we had a five-point game. From a game drifting into garbage time midway through the third, to the most improbably, incredible, historic triumph by a team that refused to give in whenever they were faced with taller, more experienced, more favoured opponents.
Kazlauskas was forced to call a timeout, which was the last useful thing he did as the Olympiacos fans found the ‘deafening’ level on their remote control and the players began to believe they could decide the game for themselves. All this with Spanoulis on the bench. Siskauskas gave CSKA breathing room and a turnover sandwiching missed threes from Sloukas and Keselj killed the momentum a little. Printezis sank two from the line as CSKA couldn’t kill the game. A humungous block from Kirilenko on a Kyle Hines dunk attempt might have been the killer but Printezis followed his own miss to extend high for the rebound and tip it back in. He missed the bonus but it was a three point game with 3:45 on the clock.
The game, once thought lost, was truly back on.
Earlier, in what seems now to be a different game on a different day, back to back to back threes from Milos Teodosic in the second quarter broke open a game that was dominated for the most part by great defence and sloppy ball handling, particularly from the Greeks, and the teams combined for 17 first quarter points, a record low in Euroleague finals. Joey Dorsey exerted his usual maximum effort on defence to relatively good effect on Krstic in the early minutes but left the game with three turnovers and two fouls in the first quarter. Olympiacos ended the first quarter with seven points and as many turnovers, but were only down three.
To be fair to these two players, CSKA’s quick hands and their voracious pursuit of the ball led to the trained ball handlers coughing it up as well. CSKA doubled in the post and cut off ball reversal, their rotations as impressive as anything we saw this weekend, but it did mean that the first half was a subdued affair, especially compared to the madness of Friday’s semi finals.
The game seemed like it might be over so many times. A 19-6 CSKA run in the first half that put them ahead by 25-13, capped by Teodosic’s daggers from behind the arc. Olympiacos threatened a mini revival in the third when Spanoulis hit the same kind of step back from the top of the key that sealed the Barcelona game, but back to back long bombs by Khryapa and Kirilenko hushed the crowd. Even penetration by Spanoulis rarely resulted in a dish to an open man, save for one dunk by Papanikolau in the second quarter. There was no way for Ivkovic to game plan past such a discrepancy in size and defensive execution.
Throughout the game, Kostas Papanikolau elevated himself above his at-the-time overmatched teammates, on his way to a perfect 8/8 from the floor across the two games, including 4/4 on threes, and all of them seemed to be huge. Only Papanikolau, Antic and Spanoulis had scored until Georgios Printezis became the fourth towards the end of the third quarter.
Those points would not be his last.
Spanoulis and Papanikolau had tried in vain to keep their team in the game, but when even simple ball movement was made a challenge by the long arms and active limbs of the Red Army, there was simply no contest. A Mantzaris three on the third quarter buzzer cut the deficit to 53-40, but at no point did an Olympiacos comeback seem genuinely plausible.
Olympiacos outscored CSKA 22-8 in the fourth, but those bare statistics can’t even begin to describe the manner in which Olympiacos fought, scrapped, and wrenched this game away from the team that had flat out dominated for three quarters. Spanoulis was named MVP but watched from the bench for a large part of the comeback as Sloukas, Mantzaris, Papanikolau, Printezis and Hines dragged their team back into the picture. Ivkovic praised Hines for his defense in the post-game press conference, calling him “a super intelligent guy who gets better step by step.”
Duda reserved the fullest praise for Acie Law’s decision to play despite, apparently “not being able to walk downstairs for the team meals for two days”, but who gave 12 minutes of pain for the cause.
So many things went Olympiacos’ way as the game wound to its climax. Ivkovic revealed he would have called a timeout if Siskauskas had made the second free throw. Instead, Spanoulis pushed the ball down the floor, drew three desperate defenders and found Printezis.
The rest you know.
Why Olympiacos Are Champions
They never thought this game was out of reach. Never. Down 19 points in the third, it didn’t matter. Kyle Hines couldn’t find his offense through three quarters, but Ivkovic had faith in him and it paid off in a fantastic effort driven fourth quarter. Kostas Papanikolaou and Georgios Printezis both had career defining games on the continent’s biggest stage. Then finally, we everything was breaking down, it was Spanoulis who could be counted upon. He wasn’t his normal flashy scoring self down the stretch, instead he realized he could best be utilized to set up his teammates.
You can analyze this game which ever which way you want but it came down to one team being able to trust each other down to the last man and another team who couldn’t. Whether it was a Euroleague rookie stepping up and nailing a clutch three or the young Papanikolaou counted on as the second scoring option all game, everyone believed in each other. Heart, a drive to win, and being brought along by the best teacher in the business, Dusan Ivkovic, was a perfect storm for Olympaicos tonight.
Why CSKA Moscow Are Not
Two days ago, CSKA Moscow were the ones coming back against Panathinaikos. Apparently, they learned little from observing the Greens as they poured their momentum down the drain as if it were sour milk.
Olympiacos’ key 14-0 run between the end of third and start of the fourth occurred during a period of CSKA indifference. Instead of pushing the pace—letting Shved put pressure on the defense with drives and cuts, pounding the rock inside to Krstic or finding Kirilenko at the foul line—they swung the ball around in hopes of winding down a clock that just a few seconds too stubborn tonight.
He was all over the court, but still stayed cool, calm, and collected. He chased Andrei Kirilenko all night, flustering the Euroleague MVP. On offense it wasn’t just the usual fast break hustle points or occasional layups off lane penetration; no, his game exploded all over the place.
Papanikolaou stepped up and nailed clutch threes as if someone was handing them out in the parking lot. He let plays develop all around him while being an integral part of the offense and offered up the best game of his life, in the biggest game of his life.
You couldn’t have written a more perfect story.
All Tournament Teams
G: Alexey Shved. Didn’t attack enough in the finals, but proved to us in the semifinals that he could have if he so desired. My favorite player to watch with the ball in his hands.
G: Vassilis Spanoulis. Printezis hit the bucket, but Vassilis’ great find and composure in a hectic moment made it possible.
F: Kostas Papanikolaou. Didn’t miss a shot, nor did he miss a beat for the Reds in two games chocked full of athletic splendor.
F: Georgios Printezis. Owner of the Euroleague season’s most immortal moment played his heart out all weekend.
C: Andrei Kirilenko. With 12 points and 10 boards, AK’s not to blame for CSKA’s collapse. And for those griping about positional whatever-the-Hell, you know he could play center for your team tomorrow tonight.
MVP: Vassilis Spanoulis.
G: Vassilis Spanoulis. When everything looked like it was about to fall apart, the team leaned on him and he orchestrated the comeback with poise.
G: Sarunas Jasikevicius. Don’t care that his team lost, he put on one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in person and played with too much passion not to be on here.
F: Kostas Papanikalou. Literally couldn’t miss this weekend and combined his offense savvy with some of the best defense we’ve seen on Kirilenko this season.
F: Georgios Printezis. Printezis went into the paint against CSKA big men and banged his life away and then, you know, hit one of the most iconic shots in Euroleague history.
F: Andrei Kirilenko. The guy left it all on the court. He wanted this game badly and played his ass off everywhere. Just wasn’t able to quite sneak through the defense like he always does against Olympiacos.
MVP: Georgios Printezis.
G: Vassilis Spanoulis. He scored 36 points across the two games on the way to Final Four MVP but it was two assists, to Dorsey and Printezis, that will live in the memory. Don’t forget that.
G: Sarunas Jasekevicius. Only played in one game but the second one didn’t matter and it looked like he stepped in a time machine on Friday afternoon. Call it a lifetime achievement thing.
F: Kostas Papanikolau. Dude shot 100% from the floor and played like he’d been there before. He has now.
F: Andrei Kirilenko. Yeah, he was on the losing team but he held off PAO almost by himself. His block on Kyle Hines in the final would have been a signature moment in 99 out of 100 re-runs of this game.
C: Kyle Hines. Yes, for one game. No, make that one half of one game. Nobody rolled with the punches more than this guy, and which other C could you really give it to?
MVP: Kostas Papanikolau