euroleague – semi-final – working day 1
A whirlwind passed through Kaunas. He wore red and in 10 minutes he destroyed everything in his path. Olympiacos reached the Euroleague final after beating Monaco in a two-way match. On the one hand, the third quarter, an exhibition in which the Greek team wrote an impressive 27-2. On the other, everything else. This is how the group led by Bartzokas led to the event in which he will seek his fourth European crown after those of 1997, 2012 and 2013. Honors to Monaco, a rookie in a Final Four who died on his feet.
The score in Kaunas was released by, who else, Vezenkov, the top scorer and MVP of Europe. But it was a mirage, a free kick, because the defenses drowned out the attacks and failures occurred on each board, inside and outside. In two and a half minutes of the semifinal, a very timid 1-2, as if each team was afraid to hit first. No sign of that deadly Vezenkov wrist from the perimeter. Olympiacos always moved very forced (6-10). The strong leader of the regular phase only contributed six points in almost eight minutes, two measly baskets at stake. Faced with that poverty, Bartzokas rescued the agitator Sloukas.
Monaco woke up. He had resisted the shouting of the thousands of Greek fans and began to show the weapons that have led him to the great catwalk. Especially that couple of gamers that make up Mike James and Jordan Loyd. If the rival covers one, the other appears with the cannon ready. James made it 8-15 with a triple and another star responded with the same tool: Vezenkov, again James and Papanikolaou excelled from the perimeter. Suddenly the two teams had released their chains in a few seconds of inspiration (14-20 to close a suffocating first quarter).
Sloukas’ quick moves to break Monaco’s wall, Black’s surge in rebounding and a couple of recoveries restored the tables after the break. Loyd came to certify with five points in a row that the Cinderella was not going to give up so easily (25-31). The Monegasque team defended itself with the passion of a newcomer who wants to show himself to the world. Olympiacos had a hard time finding a crack in that web of arms and instead suffered to stop Mike James’ executing arm from a distance. Larentzakis’ outside shot didn’t even touch the ring and instead Okobo opened the gap before the break (29-41). The surprise jumped and even the fiery Greek fans seemed asleep.
The Greek comeback went through biting back. With the tightest lines and an intensity now worthy of the stage, the men in red were resurrected. And how! Vezenkov, Papanikolaou and Fall began to hurt inside with their combinations and when Monaco covered themselves in the area the shooters hit. In five minutes, a 14-0 run put the game on the boil (43-41). The Principality’s first-time team had remained silent, dry, sunk by losses, with the dead ball in their hands as possession ran out on up to three occasions. Not even James’s wand appeared as Olympiacos flew. The Zalgirio Arena roared again. The 27-2 in the third quarter was a historic beating (56-43). A hurricane.
Monaco got up from the canvas, proud, but the romp had been so tremendous that he could barely shake off the dust in a close exchange of baskets. The final was for Olympiacos. The applause, for the great season of Monaco.
OLYMPIACOS, 76; MONACO, 62
Olympiacos: Walkup (0), Canaan (7), Papanikolaou (15), Vezenkov (19) and Fall (12) —starting five—; Sloukas (9), Lountzis (0), Larentzakis (4), Bolomboy (2), Peters (0), Black (3) and McKissic (5).
Monaco: Mike James (17), Loyd (11), Ouattar (0), Brown (4) and Motiejunas (7) —starting five—; Okobo (17), Moneke (2), Diallo (2), Hall (2).
Partial: 14-20, 15-21, 27-2, 20-19.
Referees: Ryzhyk, Latisevs and Vilius. No deleted.
Zalgirio Arena. 11,673 viewers.
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