Real Madrid coach Pablo Laso can stop Olympiacos’ Vassilis Spanoulis on Sunday when the two teams meet in the Euroleague championship game.
There was no laughing or joking, either. The playcaller was deadly serious.
“Spanoulis is a great player,” Laso admits. “Not only can he score in the right moments but for me he is the leader of his team and that means a lot for them and of course he has the talent and the quality to make those shots at the end of the game, he showed that yesterday.”
Laso’s expression changed after that, “But listen, this is basketball. I can stop Spanoulis.”
Then, in front of a packed press conference in Madrid, he turned to his right and pointed to Georgios Printezis, who not only guided Olympiacos to the Final Four with a buzzer-beating three against Barcelona but also had a team-high 14 points yesterday against CSKA Moscow.
“I can put five guys on Spanoulis, but then [Printezis] would kill me. So this is basketball. This is a team thing.”
Real Madrid will no doubt be aware of the many threats that their Greek counterparts have at their disposal on Sunday night. The 2013 title clash and last season’s quarter-final series have been and gone the focus is solely on the present day.
As it should be. And hopefully, they can bag their first Euroleague crown since 1995.
“We worked to be here, and now we must seize this opportunity and get the win,” Gustavo Ayon said as he prepares for his First Four in his first season back after spending three years in the NBA.
Olympiacos, like they have been in their last two championship games start as underdogs, but that’s the way they like it. Playing with a sense of freedom, like they have nothing to lose, even if the Piraeus outfit are one of the Euroleague’s more established units.
“We are very happy we will play our third final in the last four years,” Olympiacos coach Giannis Sfairopoulos said. “We are very proud of it. We are also proud because the club is participating in the Final Four for the fifth time in seven years. It’s a big success of our club and everyone on the team.
“To tell you the truth, I think that we are facing the ultimate favourite for the Euroleague trophy, this year in Real Madrid. We have big respect for them as [they’re] a typical European club in all competitions. We know that they were built to win the Euroleague. They play in their home court, in their city, in front of their fans. So they are favourites.
“On the other side, we know how to play against favoured teams, not only in the semi-finals last night, but also in pervious Final Fours. We will do our best to fight against an undoubtedly great coach and good group of players.”
But despite the underdog label, Printezis, the hero of 2012 knows what Olympiacos are capable of and they can play on the big stage.
“We know the way to play in the big games,” he said. “We have the mentality and we work all year on a high tempo and we have players who love to play in big games like this.”
Madrid is a city well known for its manicured parks and rich repositories of art and Sunday, either Real Madrid or Olympiacos have the chance to paint their own masterpiece and sign their name on the Euroleague trophy on Sunday’s last hours.