By: Sam Meyerkopf & Nick Gibson

Nenad Krstic got the ball in the post.  Instantly arms swarmed.  He couldn’t see, he couldn’t move, he couldn’t do anything.  Olympiacos forced any small movements into giant struggles for the CSKA big man.  He went up once for the shot, missed, and stood high above the Olympiacos players and got his rebound.  Then he brought the ball back down.  And once that ball got a sliver past Krstic’s shoulder it was over, that was Kyle Hines’ ball.  He ripped it away from Krstic, flung an outlet, and Olympiacos was on the fast break yet again.

Olympiacos beat CSKA Moscow 69 to 52 in one of the largest beat downs in Euroleague Semi-Final history.  It was an absolute deconstruction of CSKA, a team that went 23-5 in the Euroleague this year.  And Hines ripping the ball away from Krstic in a straight struggle of “who wants it more” was a microcosm of how things went all game.  From the opening tip Olympiacos showed the heart, passion, and chemistry you expect from a Final Four team.  For CSKA it looked like a pre-season game.  There are many different tactical and strategic moves that buried CSKA, but it was their true lack of heart in a time when you need it most that ruined them from the start.

Right away Olympiacos looked to set the tempo.  They pushed the ball up and down the court, attacking the rim whenever possible.  CSKA had extreme problems staying in front of their men and just about every player on Olympiacos had dribble drive lanes.  Once in the lane, CSKA’s rim protectors (Sasha Kaun and Nenad Krstic) were unable to stop the likes of Acie Law, Kostas Papanikolaou, Vassilis Spanoulis, and Georgios Printezis from finishing.

Finishing.  After this game if you look up the word finishing in a Greek dictionary it will simply read “Kyle Hines” underneath it.  Hines played a super human game against a group of CSKA big men who are bigger, longer, and held him to zero points and four rebounds in last year’s Championship game.  Finishing with 13 points and ten rebounds, Hines played with a different type of strength tonight, the strength of one of the most unique players you will ever see on a basketball court.  Standing at 6’5″ against CSKA’s seven-footers Hines drove on them, hammered the offensive glass, scooped layups around them, and took post position at will.  Olympiacos, as Coach Bartzokas said after the game, “played together”, but it was on the wide, wide calves of Kyle Hines that made that togetherness look so sweet.

Winning by 17 in a Final Four game is a massive feat.  Every Olympiacos player believed in each other and possession by possession they sucked the will to win out of CSKA.  Whether it was Hines rebounds, Kostas Sloukas treys, Papanikolaou dunks, or Pero Antic jumpers, Olympiacos throughly drained CSKA of any talent they seemed to possess.

Heart and hard work.  Two pillars of Olympiacos the past two years shown through tonight and now they are on their way to Final Four Sunday to defend their Euroleague crown.

What Went Wrong For CSKA

I can’t believe I’m about to say something positive about Milos Teodosic right now but, here goes nothing: at least Milos Teodosic wanted to lose the game for CSKA Moscow.

Or something like that.

A bad as Teodosic was down the stretch in let season’s final, he certainly found a way to outdo himself for a full 40 minutes tonight.  But lost in his selfish heaves and miscalculated butchery of the point guard position today is the fact that nobody made it stop. Nobody ever took steps toward Milos and demanded the ball, demanded some sensical possessions.

Last season it was MVP Andrei Kirilenko who shouldered some co-blame for letting Olympiacos creep back into it, and he should have.  Tonight, I look at Khryapa and wonder why he doesn’t yet have the authority to pull Milos to the side and say Listen, dude, this shit needs to stop.  Give it to me at the top of the key and go drift somewhere empty.

CSKA’s at their best when Khryapa can catch and analyze from the top of the key, and CSKA just could not—or would not—run enough possessions through Viktor.  That means Hines and Shermadini and Powell can stick a body on CSKA’s bigs without having to commit to Khryapa’s drives.   Without interior defenders drifting from their assignments, passing lanes shrink and open shots are few and far between.

And when you’re not even making the good looks, life takes a downward turn.

But props to Vladimir Micov though, for hitting that three and getting CSKA into the 50s.  Something to build on for next year.

You’ve Been Sloukas-ed

As I wrote earlier this week, Kostas Sloukas had a chance to have a “Papanikolaou like performance” this weekend.  He finished the game with five points, four rebounds, and three assists, and certainly came close in an underrated sort of way.  What made this game special for Sloukas though was how hard he worked on defensive and how under control he was on offense.

Guarding an array of CSKA guards including Milos Teodosic, Sloukas hounded them on the perimeter but most importantly pushed and scrummed like a true veteran when switched on to a big in the pick and roll.  He was determined to not let the mismatch happen.  On offense he looked so calm and comfortable it set the tone for Olympiacos when Spanoulis needed a breather.  And a couple times when the Olympiacos offense needed a boost, he was there to swish his trademark lefty jumper.  After Hines, no one worked harder tonight.

Post Game Video: Kyles Hines On Dominating CSKA Moscow