It was like 2012 all over again – but either way you look at it – Olympiacos and Vassilis Spanoulis have edged CSKA Moscow at yet another Final Four.
The Greek giants advanced to Euroleague championship game after defeating their Russian counterparts 70-68 in the first Final Four semi-final in Madrid on Friday evening; their fourth appearance in the showpiece game in five years.
And they did it by coming from behind, much like they did in the 2012 Euroleague title game against CSKA Moscow.
After trailing by nine points and seemingly looking down and out, Olympiacos once again responded to the pressure and in a frantic two-minute spell late in the fourth fought back to lead 64-63 thanks to a three from Spanoulis.
CSKA had tied the game at 66-66 – but Spanoulis – in isolation drained a three-pointer with 7.1 seconds left and they smartly fouled straight away, leaving Moscow with little chance to tie the game and force overtime.
Georgios Printezis led Olympiacos with 14 points with Spanoulis adding 13.
Nando De Colo led CSKA with a game-high 18 points but it was not enough.
After a closely fought, but scrappy first quarter, Aaron Jackson seemed to lift CSKA as his presence off the bench gave his side a much needed lift and overall, the edge at 20-17 heading into the second quarter.
The Muscovites kept their momentum going and after Jackson connected to give them a 24-17 lead within the first minute, a timeout was called.
The break in play sparked Olympiacos into life and despite their leader Vassilis Spanoulis struggling from the field, they found a scoring touch from 2012 championship hero Georgios Printezis and 21-year-old Ioannis Papapetrou.
But despite those two keeping the Greek side in it, CSKA were in control of the game at half-time at 36-35.
CSKA’s dominance continued in the third by forcing Olympiacos into tough shots and their cause was helped by the Reds’ inability to convert open shots, both inside and from deep.
But for their supremacy, the Russians seemed unable to take full advantage on the offensive and by the time regular season MVP candidate Milos Teodosic scored his first points of the game, on the third quarter buzzer, the Russians had established a 51-47 lead.
Olympiacos’ saving grace was that CSKA were not exactly firing on all cylinders and even though they fell behind 63-54, the Reds attempted one last push to imitate their similar feats of 2012. Free throws by Kostas Sloukas trimmed the deficit to 63-59 with 3:10 to go and Moscow coach Dimitris Itoudis chose to regroup his troops for a moment.
But his timeout had no effect as Spanoulis decided to turn up.