This year the format changes again, forcing teams to play more matches. They eliminate the previous round-trip format and from the beginning different leagues will be played. In addition all will be important because the sum of the two will be made to know who will be in the playoffs. A playoff that also change because years ago there was only one round of quarters and this year there will be round of eighths and quarters
The final four was held in Rome and after a long season the four survivors are set to dispute the final straight for the title. The semi-finals will pit the likes of Olympiacos and Barcelona against the two revelations of the year, Slovenia’s Union Olimpija and France’s ASVEL. For them it is already a feat to be here.
The Slovenians were a team full of magnificent young players, their quality and daring allowed them to get here but in this semifinal they suffered the good work of Olympiacos. A Greek team led by the magician David Rivers who dominated everything and the inner game of a differential Tarlac. Thus Olympiacos after a year of parentesis returns to a final, its third in four years.
As in the previous year, Barcelona again failed to win the Euroleague, the only European title missing from their display cabinets, and again against a Greek team. But if then the polemic final play (illegal plug of Vranković to Montero in the last seconds) served to divert the attention, in this occasion the Barça could not resort to any argument to justify its absolute scarcity of ideas and resources to confront a great end. The Catalan team at no time got into the game, and was always towed by an Olympiakos, under the wise direction of its base David Rivers, controlled at all times the pace of play.
Ðorđević, accustomed to playing under the pressure of a grand final, was at no time up to the circumstances, very nervous and failed for a player of his category. But his team-mates didn’t have a great performance either. They seemed to be young against a seasoned and experienced Greek team. The Barça was a broken equipment that offered a lamentable image.
It will cost Barcelonismo a lot to forget this humiliating defeat by 15 points of difference -the widest in a final since 1963- because, in addition to seeing how his team offered a poor performance and how the relationship between Aíto and Ðorđević deteriorated irremissibly, his bad faith in the European Cup continued to grow.
In what was the final itself, the beginning was plagued with errors on the part of both sets (a nefarious series of 0 of 10 throws in Olympiakós and numerous ball losses on the part of Barcelona). After an early lead from Aito’s men (2-9), David Rivers pulled gallons on the Greek champions, and ten of his points brought the first draw to a luminous (18-18, min. 14). Without a break, Fassoulas gave Olympiakos the first advantage with a basket play and an additional free kick (21-18). From that moment on, there was a phase of equality in the scoreboard, with short advantages for both, although Barcelona was clearly going from more to less, and this became even more evident in the second half.
Three and a half minutes after the restart, a triple of Sigalas gave the maximum difference to Olympiakós (39-29), against a Barcelona that did not give the impression of being able to react. Not even the zone 2-3 ordered by Aíto after the elimination by personal Rivas in the 26th minute seemed to work. Although both teams continued to lavish errors in attack, the box Ivković played with the tranquility of having a comfortable cushion of advantage. In addition, the interior game of Tarlać caused havoc in the tall men of the Barça, that were loading of personal faults, and the Greek set began to dominate clearly the rebounds (24 opposite to 12 of the Barcelona in this second half). After achieving a new maximum difference (60-43, min. 35), Olympiakos, hand in hand with a Rivers who controlled the pace of the game at will, had no problem to achieve victory before the total and absolute inoperability of Barcelona.