The 'Comeback Kids' came back

Dec 19, 2019 by Euroleague.net Print
The 'Comeback Kids' came back

Back in the early 2010s, Olympiacos Piraeus's players called themselves "the Comeback Kids" for the many games that they won that way. That includes two EuroLeague championships game in which they rallied from a 19-point deficit in the final 13 minutes to beat CSKA Moscow in 2012 and overcame a 17-point gap against Real Madrid in 2013. Olympiacos is the last team to date to win consecutive EuroLeague titles, led by some of the players who are still around, namely Vassilis Spanoulis, Georgios Printezis and Kostas Papanikolaou.

Most other teams would have given up in their situation late in Wednesday's game. Alexey Shved had already scored 36 points with 7 shots from downtown when free throws by Sergey Karasev gave Khimki an 87-96 lead with a minute left. But then again, Olympiacos is not any team and its leaders have been in similar situations and managed to finish on top. Olympiacos needed an X-factor to ignite the comeback and found one in Brandon Paul, who had 3 points coming into the final minute of regulation, but made enough plays late to give the Reds a chance.

Paul drove to the basket and kicked the ball out to Georgios Printezis for a corner three-pointer and right off the inbound pass, he drew an offensive foul on Karasev. Paul caught the inbounds pass and immediately shot the ball from beyond the arc to bring Olympiacos within 93-96 with 52.3 seconds left. Khimki called a much-needed timeout and the crowd started to sign again.

Olympiacos needed at least two defensive stops and a three-point shot to send the game to overtime. When the Reds forced a 24-second violation, they were on their way. Then Spanoulis took matters into his own hands; he stopped at the three-point line and hit a critical game-tying shot like he was in practice. Khimki had a final chance, but Paul prevented Shved from dribbling to the basket and caused him to travel as he was moving his feet to try to find a balanced shot.

The game went to overtime and Olympiacos dominated through an outstanding Spanoulis, who finished the game with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Printezis had a fantastic performance - 26 points, 11-of-15 two-point shots and 7 rebounds - and once again, Papanikolaou was his team's heart and soul with 18 points and 6 rebounds. All of them were there in the early 2010s and got the job done against all odds, with the help of Paul, Nikola Milutinov (16 points, 7 rebounds)- and the rest of the team.

Spanoulis now just needs 16 points to get past Juan Carlos Navarro and become the EuroLeague's all-time top scorer and at age 36, he is far from slowing down. Olympiacos head coach Kestutis Kemzura also praised the remaining "Comeback Kids" in the post-game press conference.

"Spanoulis was amazing, hitting the big three, getting 10 assists and making the big plays," Kemzura said after the game. "Printezis was good, but I would mention Kostas [Papanikolaou}; his spirit, his energy, brought everybody together. I told Kostas after the game - if he plays like this, with this spirit, with this attitude, it is hard for Olympiacos to lose."