SPORTS

No Euroleague Final Four for the Greeks

GEORGE GEORGAKOPOULOS

TAGS: Basketball

Both of Greece’s representatives crashed out of the Euroleague, despite enjoying home advantage in the play-offs, as they could not find an away win in Madrid or Kaunas this week to offset their home defeats from last week.

On Thursday Olympiakos went down 101-91 at Zalgiris to lose the best-of-five quarterfinal series with a 3-1 score, before Panathinaikos succumbed to Real Madrid 89-82 to lose the series 3-1 too.

Olympiakos had a serious fitness problem with several of its players and could not match its host for most of the game at Kaunas, and only in the first last quarter did it manage to put some pressure on Zalgiris cutting the distance up to seven points toward the end of Game 4.

Yiannis Sfairopoulos, the Olympiakos coach, admitted after the game that Zalgiris was superior to his team. He was bitterly honest.

His players appeared to have run out of steam in the second and third quarter, but somehow came back to life in the fourth during which they scored 35 points and came back from 23 points down to threaten Zalgiris, before the team of Sarunas Jasikevicius sealed its spot in the Final Four for the first time in 19 years.

Vassilis Spanoulis (19 points) was followed this time by Janis Strelnieks (17) and Costas Papanikolaou (15), but the main problems for the Reds were in defense, while the contribution of its American players will be in the spotlight for the days to come.

There was a similar story in the Game 4 that took place in Madrid on Friday, as Panathinaikos had major problems in defense in the first three periods to find itself trailing by up to 22 points, before staging an impressive comeback that took the score to 85-82 with just over a minute to play.

The Greens allowed Real to score at will after the fifth minute and up to the start of the final quarte,r with the Spaniards seemingly heading for a score over 100 points. In the last period a switch in the Greens' defense frustrated Real and gave some self-confidence to Panathinaikos that kept cutting its deficit, and it might have equalized had it not been for another set of strange referee calls that had the Greek champions' players wonder when this will end.

It may have actually just ended, as Panathinaikos has decided not to stay with the Euroleague any longer and has reportedly begun negotiations with FIBA to move into the Champions League.

In this farewell game of the Greens in the Euroleague, Chris Singleton scored an amazing 5/6 triples for a total of 21 points, with Mike James and Nick Calathes making 18 points each.

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