The Reds have done it again against the Russians: Olympiakos came from 13 points down to beat favorite CSKA Moscow 82-78 at the Euroleague semifinal on Friday in Istanbul and advance to Sunday’s final. The game was reminiscent of the 2012 final in the same city that gave the Reds their second of three European crowns.
In this year’s trophy game the Reds will face the winner of the other semifinal between Real Madrid and Fenerbahce.
The never-say-die mentality of the Greek champion allowed it to stay in touch with the dominant Russians – who are coached by a Greek, Dimitris Itoudis.
From the very beginning holder CSKA had the upper hand, often stretching its lead to double-digit margins on either side of half-time, as Olympiakos only had the three-pointers to keep it in the game.
It was a triple like that, scored by Dimitris Agravanis right at the end of the first half that reduced the Reds’ deficit to seven points (40-33) and gave them courage for the third period.
The same picture was repeated at the end of the third quarter with a buzzer beater by Vangelis Mantzaris: His rainbow of a shot shaved another three points off CSKA’s lead to make it 64-60 and make the Russians revisit past nightmares.
The Greeks believed in completing their comeback and finally edged ahead 69-67 right when it mattered most, in the last few minutes of the game, led by an evergreen – albeit Red – captain Vassilis Spanoulis.
The Russians had no answer to the Greek momentum and succumbed to their fate in the end, realizing that Olympiakos proved once again a nut that is too tough to crack.
The teamwork of Yiannis Sfairopoulos’s players was excellent as they collected 43 rebounds against CSKA’s 35 and distributed 15 assists against the Russians’ six, to offset the poor scoring rate in two-pointers (just 31 percent).
Three Greek players led the scoring for Olympiakos with 14 points each: Spanoulis, Costas Papanikolaou and Giorgos Printezis, while Mantzaris added another 12. It was this Greek spirit that led the Reds to the reversal of their fortune on the night, as this is a team that has been together for many years.
The game and its result helped Olympiakos cast aside the ugly scenes recorded before the semifinal, when numerous Fenerbahce fans attacked a few Olympiakos supporters, stabbed one of them in the leg and injured four others. They also attacked CSKA fans.