Olympiacos, Real Madrid book tickets to Euroleague final
LONDON - Reuters
Olympiacos' star playmaker Vassilis Spanoulis, center, jumps to score as CSKA Moscow's Vladimir Micov, right, looks on, during a Euroleague Final-Four semi-final basketball game at the O2 Arena, in London, May 10. AP PhotoOlympiakos Piraeus will defend their Euroleague basketball title against Real Madrid in the final at the weekend after both teams recorded victories at London's 02 Arena on May 10.
In a rematch of the climax to last year's European season, Olympiakos pulled clear of CSKA Moscow in the first quarter and eventually won 69-52.
Real then came back from nine points down in the last quarter to overpower arch-rivals Barcelona 74-67 in the other semi-final.
"We played great defence all the way and that helped us to beat a really tough opponent," Olympiakos captain Vassilis Spanoulis told reporters. "After a very hard season we are back in the final."
Strong defending by forward Kyle Hines helped the Greek side thwart a second-half comeback attempt by CSKA and they easily advanced to the championship match for a second straight year.
Six-times winners CSKA were trying to avenge last year's defeat in the final in Istanbul where they blew a 19-point lead in the second half and lost to a game-winning shot at the buzzer by Georgios Printezis.
CSKA's Sonny Weems, formerly of the NBA's Toronto Raptors, and Olympiakos duo Pero Antic and Hines led all scorers with 13 points each.
"I haven't seen us play like that in a long time," said Weems. "Some of the guys did not show up and it is the worst game we've played the whole season."
Olympiakos contained CSKA to 14 of 45 shots from the field and did a great job of neutralising Serbian playmaker Milos Teodosic.
Having averaged 13 points and five assists up to the Final Four, he recorded just five points and an
assist on May 11.
"The shooting percentages are not always high in a game like this but in the end defence won the game," said Olympiakos coach Georgios Bartzokas.
'Merengues' clinch the clasico
Barcelona took an early lead over Real in the all-Spanish 'El Clasico'. Sharp shooting by power forward Felipe Reyes then helped Real notch 26 points in the final quarter and they stole the lead for good with less than four minutes remaining.
Reyes finished with 17 points, two shy of Barcelona's Marcelinho Huertas, the game's top scorer.
The Catalan side sustained injuries and their top Croatian centre Ante Tomic had to play 36 of the 40 minutes.
"We knew they only had one centre so the plan from the start was to run him around, bump him a bit, and it worked," said Real's American-born forward Marcus Slaughter. "By the fourth quarter he was tired."
Barcelona take on CSKA for third place on May 12 afternoon before Real and Olympiakos clash later in the day.
"It will be a tough game. Olympiakos played great today and they have the heart of a champion but we'll take our time and plan like we did today," Slaughter said.