Madrid dethrones Olympiacos, reaches the 2014 Final Four!
There will be a new champion at the end of this Turkish Airlines Euroleague season. Real Madrid knocked out back-to-back champion Olympiacos Piraeus with an 83-69 victory at home on Friday. The result sends Madrid to its sixth Final Four – and third in four years – by winning their best-of-five series 3-2. Madrid will face archrival FC Barcelona in the semifinals next month in Milan. Sergio Llull led the winners with 20 points. Felipe Reyes and Rudy Fernandez each added 15, while Nikola Mirotic had 10 for Madrid. Vassilis Spanoulis led Olympiacos with 19 points. Matt Lojeski added 15 for the Reds. Three-pointers by Lojeski and Spanoulis allowed Olympiacos to get an early 7-9 lead. Mirotic and an outstanding Llull stepped up to give Madrid an 18-12 lead after 10 minutes. Reyes and consecutive three-pointers by Sergio Rodriguez made it 38-25, but Ioannis Papapetrou and Spanoulis combined for all the points in a 0-7 run that kept Olympiacos within 40-34 at halftime. Mirotic took over after the break and got help from Fernandez to keep Madrid ahead, 59-52. Madrid boosted its margin to 66-54 behind an unstoppable Reyes and then again to 76-62 with four minutes left, enough to start celebrating a spot in the 2014 Final Four.
First quarter: Llull, Mirotic put Madrid ahead
Llull got Madrid going with a three-pointer in transition. Olympiacos went scoreless for almost two minutes before a bomb from downtown by Matt Lojeski tied it at 3-3. Rudy Fernandez took over with a wild driving layup that Spanoulis bettered with a triple to give Olympiacos its first lead, 5-6. Tremmell Darden rescued Madrid with a put-back layup, but he didn't find much help around, as the hosts tried to get Ioannis Bourousis involved without much success. Lojeski nailed another triple before a power layup by Nikola Mirotic tied it at 9-9. Fernandez fed Darden for an alleyo-op slam and an off-balance jumper by Mirotic made it a 4-point game. Olympiacos could not find the way to the basket until Mardy Collins stepped up with a layup-plus-foul. Llull followed free throws with his second three to give Madrid a 18-12 lead at the end of a very intense first quarter.
Second quarter: Late rally keeps Olympiacos close
Felipe Reyes scored down low early in the second quarter and Llull struck from downtown off an Olympiacos timeout to give Madrid its first double-digit margin, 23-12. Kostas Sloukas tried to change things with an off-balance basket, which Reyes matched with foul shots. A three-pointer by Brent Petway gave the Reds hope at 25-17. Lojeski made free throws, which Llull erased with a fade-away jumper. Spanoulis returned to the floor, fed Cedric Simmons for an alley-oop slam and soon added a mid-range jumper to cut the difference to 27-23. Madrid found a new to-go guy in Sergio Rodriguez, who struck twice from downtown to restore a 10-point Madrid margin. Simmons shined with a big slam, but a three-point play by Reyes ignited the crowd. Llull and Georgios Printezis exchanged baskets and free throws by Bourousis made it 40-27. Ioannis Papapetrou hit a corner triple and Spanoulis copied him right after that to bring Olympiacos back to life, 40-34, at halftime.
Third quarter: Madrid holds on to lead
Both teams struggled to score after the break until Fernandez made free throws. Printezis rescued Olympiacos with a driving layup, but Mirotic found Bourousis for a close basket and a 44-36 Madrid margin. After Lojeski slashed and dunked, Fernandez quickly answered with an acrobatic layup. A free throw by Dunston kept the Reds within 46-39. Bourousis scored down low. Spanoulis took over with a driving layup and a dunk by Mirotic restored a 50-41 Madrid edge. Darden hit a mid-range jumper, which Vangelis Mantzaris matched with a five-meter shot of his own to keep Olympiacos within 52-43. Mirotic hit 4 of 5 free throws, which bettered Petway's corner three-pointer for a 56-46 score. Petway insisted from downtown and Simmons bettered Fernandez's free throws with a layup-plus-foul that brought Olympiacos as close as 58-52. Marcus Slaughter split foul shots to fix the score at 59-52.
Fourth quarter: Madrid is a fiesta!
Fernandez made free throws early in the quarter, which Spanoulis erased with an outstanding driving layup. Fernandez kept pushing Madrid with a high-flying tip-in, a steal and a catch-and-shoot three-pointer that ignited the crowd, 66-54 with eight minutes left. Dunston split free throws before Reyes restored Madrid’s 13-point margin. Spanoulis nailed a stop-and-pop jumper, which Reyes erased with a mid-range shot. Spanoulis found Dunston for an alley-oop layup, as Madrid kept using long possessions to run the game clock down. Rodriguez and Spanoulis traded baskets and another baseline jumper by Reyes seemed to seal the outcome, 74-61, with over four minutes left. Spanoulis split free throws, but a close jumper by Llull got the party started, 76-62, with three minutes to go. Olympiacos never surrendered and bowed out of the 2013-14 Turkish Airlines Euroleague without the chance to defend its title in the Final Four. That right belongs to Real Madrid, which won the series and now looks for its ninth continental crown!
Friday, April 25, 2014