The TOP-16 lived up to expectations and the fight went all the way to the end. In Group E, CSKA and Real Madrid took the top spots. Accompanied by Panathinaikos and Anadolu Efes to play the crosses. On the other hand, in Group F, Barcelona with a 13-1 win, Olympiacos, the reigning champion, finished second, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Caja Laboral completed the eight teams that would play the playoffs. The latter did not have it easy because both BC Khimki and Montepaschi Siena were in the ointment until the end. The Spanish with three teams among the top eight again demonstrate their high competitive level.
In the playoffs Barcelona sweated blood, sweat and tears to beat Panathinaikos 3-2. The Greeks came to put with (1-2) but the Catalans reacted and took this disputed series.
The reigning champions struggled to make it to the four final. Olympiacos had to do their best to beat Anadolu Efes. Despite the Greeks winning their first two home games, Efes were strong in Turkey until they forced the fifth match. In the final match Spanoulis and company were able to complete their mission of returning to the final phase.
A Real Madrid vs Barcelona is always exciting and if it is in play to move to an entire final of the Euroleague emotions multiply spontaneously. The game was developed in gusts, with very different parts for each team. The Catalans were and even dominated the game until well into the last quarter but Real Madrid in a great final match took the victory.
Piraeus’ Olympiakos became the second team to win the Euroleague two seasons in a row (after Tel Aviv’s Maccabi in 2005) when they defeated Real Madrid by a clear 100-88 after a massive exercise in mental strength and character that led the Greek side to overcome a 17-point deficit in the first quarter (10-27). The Madrid outfit, for their part, were appearing in their first continental final after an 18-year absence with the intention of winning their ninth European Cup. Despite an electrifying match start by Pablo Laso’s men, their hopes faded from the second quarter when Olympiakos – honouring their nickname of «angry ticks» – pulled experience, character and a rabid defensive intensity to come back from the match and even enjoy a relatively placid final. Vasilis Spanoulis, the undisputed leader of the Greek outfit, was once again decisive with his enormous repertoire of play direction, assists and decisive baskets, which earned him the title of MVP of the Final Round (a trophy added to his designation as Most Valuable Player of the Euroleague a few days earlier). Real Madrid, for their part, despite their great season and lauded speed of play, proved to be a rival too inexperienced in this type of lides and ended up succumbing without being able to provide weighty arguments to counter the Greek game.
The stands at London’s O2 Arena presented an impressive atmosphere when Olympiakós and Real Madrid jumped onto the pitch, with an absolute majority of Greek fans. However, Pablo Laso’s men were not frightened by the atmosphere and had a spectacular start, with incredible percentages of pitching and a defense that completely deactivated the attack of Olympiakos. The success of Sergio Llull (3/3), Nikola Mirotić (2/2) and Mirza Begić (2/2), the intensity of Rudy Fernández and the defensive solidity of the whites (with three stoppers of the Slovenian Begić included) made Real Madrid start to take progressive advantages (4-8, min. 3; 5-15, min. 6; 7-20, min. 7), which culminated at the end of the first quarter with the maximum difference of the match: 17 points (10-27).
However, the reigning champion and executioner in the semi-final of the great favorite (CSKA Moscow) did not give up, and at the beginning of the second quarter jumped to the track with greater defensive intensity and great aggressiveness in all its lines. The Macedonian But Antić, luxury reserve in Olympiakos, was the first to break the hostilities with an incredible triple, and soon joined the facet offensive Acie Law (20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in the final credit of the U.S. base) and Stratos Perperoglou, while Georgios Printezis -forward converted to wing-pivot- decided to take over the area. When the battle took place on the physical terrain, Real Madrid had all they needed to lose to the enormous intensity of the Greek team. At half-time, Olympiakos had managed to virtually equal the score (37-41), but above all had left a sense of total control over the game, making their rivals were forced to play defensively.
Two consecutive Spanoulis trebles at the start of the third quarter put Olympiakos ahead on the scoreboard (45-43, min. 22), which blew up the stands of the O2 Arena. The exchange of blows evidenced the physical disadvantage and intensity of Real Madrid, and only the appearance of Marcus Slaughter (on track by the three personal of an immense Begić) and Felipe Reyes (intelligent as always in the rebound) served to equal the fight on the low post (where Kyle Hines began to show all his talent). While Georgios Bartzokas’ men worsened their percentages from the perimeter, the whites took over the rebounds. A triple from Rudy Fernandez helped Real Madrid to take the lead again three minutes from the end of the third quarter (55-56). While Madrid captain Felipe Reyes took advantage to capture the rebound he needed to become the maximum offensive rebounder in Euroleague history (386 captures under the opposite hoop, one more than the Turkish power forward Mirsad Türkcan), the match entered a new phase of equality, and at the end of the third quarter was reached with the swords at all heights (61-61).
However, hopes of a level match ending began to crack at the start of the last quarter, when Vasilis Spanoulis’ talent was in full splendour. The Olympiakos’ exceptional base-scout team teamed up with Acie Law to make it clear that the Greek side had come to London to repeat their title and that their defensive display against CSKA in the semi-final had not been the flower of a day. A new Spanoulis triple began to dye the final a clear red (70-62, min. 33), if only for the demonstration of defensive intensity and character of Olympiakos against a Real Madrid that drowned in the battle put forward by his rival body to body and began to notice their inexperience in continental finals. On this occasion, the best weapon madridista, the scoring, began to turn against him, and in the exchange of baskets in which the game ended in its final minutes the whites clearly had to lose. Without even the option of being able to force a level finish, Pablo Laso’s men ended up giving up against an Olympiakós that completed its victory reaching one hundred points (100-88).