Olympiacos Piraeus will play for its second Euroleague crown on Sunday after outlasting FC Barcelona Regal 68-64 in another thrilling semifinal showdown at the 2012 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four at Istanbul’s Sinan Erdem Arena on Friday. Vassilis Spanoulis starred for Coach Ivkovic’s squad with 21 points and 6 assists – the last of which to Joey Dorsey put the Reds up two possessions with 16.1 seconds to go and paved the way to victory. Olympiacos led for much of the contest, but Barcelona never fell too far behind and was always in the thick of the hunt. But in the end Olympiacos got the job done at both ends and pulled out a tough win to get back to the title game for the second time in three years. Georgios Printezis added 14 points for the winners. Juan Carlos Navarro paced Barcelona with 18 points and Boni Ndong had 10 in defeat. Barcelona was hindered by poor three-point shooting – 3 of 19 (15.8%) – which cancelled out its 33-43 rebounding edge. Olympiacos made 9 of 20 from downtown (45%).
Vassilis Spanoulis opened the game with a three-pointer and Evangelos Mantzaris also banked one in, before Pero Antic drove to the basket for a layup and an 8-0 Olympiacos lead. Barcelona was held scoreless for the first four minutes, missed all 4 field-goals attempts and turned the ball over twice as well. But Erazem Lorbek scored in the low post to end the drought, and after Spanoulis answered with a layup, Boniface Ndong had a monster slam-dunk and Marcelinho Huertas drove to the basket to cut it to 10-6. Spanoulis hit another three, but Ndong scored a basket-and-foul to keep Barca close. Both head-coaches used nine players in the first eight minutes of the game, trying to keep a high energy level, and one of the players off the bench, Printezis, made a layup and 2 free-throws to put the Reds up 17-9. Before the quarter expired, Victor Sada had a put-back dunk and it was 17-11 after the first 10 minutes.
Kostas Sloukas and Fran Vasquez made shots in the paint at the beginning of the second quarter, and C.J. Wallace and Kostas Papanikolau traded threes couple of minutes later. Navarro scored his first points of the game after more than 12 minutes of play as Barcelona hit only one of its first 10 shots from behind the arc, but made that up with 9 offensive boards in that span. Lorbek in the post, and Perovic with a mid-range jumper, brought Barcelona within 2. Navarro drove to the basket to tie the score at 24-24. Acie Law hit a jumper for Olympiacos, but Navarro answered with a triple to give Barcelona its first lead, 26-27, with a little more than three minutes to go in the half. That lead lasted only for a few seconds because Spanoulis and Joey Dorsey both found their way to the basket to give Olympiacos another 4-point advantage. Barcelona kept the pressure on the offensive boards to stay within a possession of its opponents. Ndong tipped-in Lorbek’s miss, but Olympiacos had the last word in the half when Spanoulis assisted Dorsey for a stunning alley-oop slam that gave the Reds a 33-29 lead at the break.
Spanoulis started the second half just like he did the first, with a three-pointer. Victor Sada answered with a runner, but Printezis hit another three to make it an 8-point game once again. The scoring spree continued with Navarro and Vasquez making buckets on one side, and Hines and Printezis on the other for a 43-37 lead four minutes in the second half. Pete Mickeal and Vasquez continued Barcelona’s dominance in the paint by cutting the deficit to 43-41. Printezis scored inside and Lorbek made a hook-shot from close range, only to see Papanikolau hit a three-pointer and Law sink a long jump shot to make it 50-43. Before the end of the period Navarro and Lorbek made sure Olympiacos would go into the last 10 minutes trailing only 50-47.
Spanoulis and Antic gave Olympiacos another jump-start into the quarter, extending the lead to 54-47. After Huertas made an easy layup, Spanoulis made a jumper, but Navarro hit a three to keep Barcelona close. Both teams significantly stepped up on defense, before Sada was left wide-open for a jumper and Dorsey made an uncontested dunk. Barcelona countered with Navarro’s trademark La Bomba shot, but Printezis hit a big three-pointer to make it 61-56 with four-and-a-half minutes to go.
Papanikolau and Mantzaris failed to add to the tally each making only 1 of 2 free throws, so Lorbek and Mickeal cut the lead to 63-59 with 2 minutes left in the game. After an offensive foul by Law, Navarro calmly sank a pair of free throws but Spanoulis had an answer hitting a three over Huertas to give his team 66-61 advantage. In the next 20 seconds, though, Ndong drew couple of fouls and hit three of four free throws to make it a 66-64. After that one miss, Olympiacos did not manage to control the rebound but Huertas missed a three-pointer that would put Barca in the lead with 35 seconds left. Instead, Dorsey fought in the paint making a layup while being fouled. He missed the free throw leaving the score 68-64 with 16.1 seconds to go.
It was all over when Ndong missed a hook-shot on the next possession. Mantzaris grabbed the rebound and an army of Olympiacos fans could celebrate.
Friday, May 11, 2012