In the first phase group A gave us the classification of Bilbao and the premature elimination of a historian like Caja Laboral. Cantu, after many years out of the elite, ranks among the best. Fenerbahce Ulker and Olympiacos played a hand to hand until the end. In group B CSKA did not lose a single match, Panathinaikos was a solid second. Unicaja and Zalgiris qualify with a negative balance
In Group C, Real Madrid and Maccabi held a one-on-one lead until the end. Anadolu and Milan went through with the right and another historical as Partizan goes to the first change. In the group D Barcelona, Montepaschi Siena and Unics Kazan disputed the first places. Galatasaray with negative balance is classified and both Asseco Prokom and Union Olimpija were the two teams with the worst balance.
In the TOP-16 as always emotions were pushed to the limit. In group E CSKA showed from the beginning a great mastery of the situation. The second place was a hand to hand between Olympiacos and Galatasaray, only the average put the Greeks in the playoffs. In Group F the equaliser was taken to the extreme. Montepaschi Siena, Bilbao and Real Madrid drew (4-2) and the whites went home. In the group G Panathinaikos finished leading and the second place went to Unics Kazan in hard fight with Armani Milan, here too the average was protagonist. In group H Barcelona finished as the only undefeated, Maccabi was the eighth classified after another time thanks to the average overcoming Cantu. Five of the eight playoff places had to be decided by the average, an impressive TOP-16.
MONTEPASCHI SIENA (4-2)
GESCRAP BILBAO (4-2)
REAL MADRID (4-2)
UNICAJA MALAGA (0-6)
UNICS KAZAN (3-3)
EA7 ARMANI MILÁN (3-3)
FENERBAHCE ULKER (2-4)
MACCABI ELECTRA (3-3)
BENNET CANTU (3-3)
ZALGIRIS KAUNAS (0-6)
Olympiacos started the crossing with a key victory on transalpine soil. The Sienese reacted in the second but then the Hellenes became strong at home to win (1-3). Olympiacos didn’t play in anyone’s pools but they are already in the final four.
The Panathinaikos played with Maccabi the quarterfinals more equal of all, it was a real battle. The Greens won the first game by 20 points, but it was a mirage because the yellows won two games in a row, the first on Greek soil to put Maccabi on the brink of a playoff. But Panathinaikos again offered their most competitive version and managed to save a life or death in Israel and win the fifth game in a brutal face or cross.
The final four began with a thrilling match between CSKA and Panathinaikos. The Greeks got off to a strong start and by the first quarter they had doubled the score. CSKA were able to react to the break and equalise the match. Throughout the second half the game was a give and take until a final heart attack the Russians were able to endorse their status as favorites and get into the final. The Greeks, as expected, were a terrible opponent.
But if CSKA had had a hard time, it was nothing like what the Catalans suffered. No one had Olympiacos, a team that no one could have thought could be here at this stage, but the Reds took victory against the mega favourite Barcelona. The Greeks from the first minute was made with the tempo of the game and played to what they wanted. A Barça always uncomfortable saw impotent as the Olympiacos culminated the great surprise.
Fifteen years after their last European conquest (the former Euroleague FIBA in 1997), Olympiakos returned to the top of European basketball thanks to an intense exercise of faith, confidence and self-improvement, which led the Greek team to overcome the all-powerful CSKA of Moscow by 19 points until they achieved the basket of victory in the last second. Much of the credit for this victory goes to Serbian coach Dušan Ivković, who was already the architect of Olympiakos’ triumph in 1997 and this time has also taken the Piraeus team to the top. The young Papanikolaou was the best of the match with 18 points and 4 rebounds (but above all with a determination in the most important moments of a veteran player), while Spanoulis was named MVP of the Final Phase for his strength in the two games played.
Nine seconds from time, with CSKA up one point (60-61), Šiškauskas missed two crucial free kicks that could have sealed the match. What happened instead was that Papanikolaou captured the rebound and the ball finally reached Printezis, who penetrated to the bottom line and with a Navarrese style «bomb» established the final 62-61 with only seven tenths to the end of the game, to the delirium of thousands of Greek fans populating the stands of Sinan Erdem Dome.
Olympiakos and CSKA began the match with strong defences, a lot of nerves and some inaccuracies. With just five baskets in play converted by both sides, the first quarter ended with a slight advantage for the Russian side (7-10). Jonas Kazlauskas’s men got off to a strong start in the second quarter, and three consecutive trebles from Teodosić in just over a minute put their team with a considerable lead on the scoreboard (13-25, min. 16). At half-time, the Russian team seemed to certify their status as favourites to the title with a difference that seemed almost final for the fate of the game (20-34), not so much because of the fourteen points of income but because it was surpassing Olympiakos in all aspects of the game.
Only Spanoulis and Papanikolaou were giving the face in the whole of El Piero, although their contribution was clearly insufficient against a CSKA that threatened to break the final (34-53, min. 28). But the Greek team did not give up, and thanks to a very hard defense and a great effectiveness in attack achieved a partial of 18-2 that equalized the match again (52-55, min. 36). From that moment on there was an exchange of fouls and free kicks in which Olympiakos, in clear physical and emotional progression after coming back 19 points to CSKA, was more accurate. In the final seconds, mistakes from Šiškauskas’s personal line were crucial to make possible one of the most dramatic finals in Euroleague history, with Printezis’s last basket almost on the horn.