After twenty years of hurt, and two straight championship losses, Real Madrid were not to be denied.
Paced by Jaycee Carroll’s 16 points, Real Madrid won their first Euroleague crown since 1995 and ninth overall by beating Olympiacos 78-59 in the title game in the Spanish capital on Sunday night.
Sergio Llull and Andres Nocioni added 12 points for the victors with the latter winning this year’s Final Four award, a just reward for the veteran appearing in his first Final Four after years in the NBA.
“I may be the MVP, but everyone on my team played well,” Nocioni said. “We all prepared for this season and said it would be a different one. We are where we want to be.”
Indeed, Real are where they want to be. At the helm of European club basketball.
“I always insist on the team,” Real head coach Pablo Laso stated. “And I consider myself just another member of the team. Personally I am very happy for having won this title, because this really gives you recognition. But it’s equally as important as the recognition of my daily work.”
“We all work hard in practice and it’s great to see us get rewarded for it,” KC Rivers said.
Matt Lojeski led Olympiacos with 17 points but it just wasn’t to be their night. They were hounded by Real’s dogged defensive line, and when the Reds went on the attack, looking for points from the foul line, they went cold. Shooting a woeful 12/26, which went for 46 percent.
Their hero from their semi-final success, Vassilis Spanoulis, expected by the Greek faithful to guide Olympiacos to another Euroleague title was absent. Shutdown by Real Madrid’s numerous defensive options available to them. Spanoulis went 1/5 from the field and scored three points.
Real started the brighter but it wasn’t long until the Greek side found their gears with a red-hot Matt Lojeski keeping the Olympiacos scoreboard ticking.
As the first ten minutes progressed, the Liga Endesa side seemed happy to play isolation basketball, which did not serve them well as Olympiacos gained control to take a 19-15 lead after one.
Real Madrid’s defence needed to step up, and it did. Olympiacos were forced into two 24-second shot clock violations and at times they couldn’t even make a simple pass.
Real eventually took their first lead since the opening stages of the first at 28-25 with a three from Jonas Maciulis, and along with their continued pressure defence, they held Olympiacos to just nine points in the second period to lead 35-28 at the half.
But to their style, Olympiacos found a way back.
A 14-2 run by the Reds tied the game at 43-43 mid-way through the third and Real Madrid seemed to struggle to find answers at both ends of the floor.
Then Jaycee Carroll found the right answer.
The American scored eight points, including two three-pointers in quick succession to swing the balance back in Real’s favour as they led 53-46 heading into the last quarter.
And Real’s momentum continued into the fourth quarter. A three from Maciulis gave them their first double-digit lead of the game at 65-55 and from there, the Barclaycard Center, the majority of them decked in white started to celebrate.
Chants of “ole, ole” began to ring around the arena every time Real were passing the ball around. They knew it and Olympiacos knew it.
At the end, captain Felipe Reyes collected the trophy from his Majesty the King of Spain and lifted it high. Indeed this is now Real Madrid’s time.