Although the loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv at home (73-80), a week ago, wasn’t so painful for Olympiacos, the Reds should become more consistent in order to enhance their chances to qualify to the top-8.
Two months ago, Olympiacos entered the season ready to do what they failed to do last year, namely to qualify to the Final-4.
Based on their roster, they were considered one of the favourites to go all the way to the end, despite the tough competition with the other teams.
Even though they were defeated by Real Madrid on the road in the opening game of the season (83-65), they won their next three straight games, only to lose twice to CSKA Moscow (75-81) and Galatasaray (89-87), respectively, playing mediocre on both ends of the floor.
Their victories against Barcelona (59-52) and rivals Panathinaikos Superfoods (77-79) showed the team’s quality and depth, but the defeat to the Israeli squad was a step-back for the Reds (5-4 record after nine games).
With the team facing Darussafaka Dogus on the road on Friday, what changes does coach Giannis Sfairopoulos need to make in order to help his players stabilise their performance at high levels?
Firstly, they should definitely play much better defensively. Apart from the games against Barcelona and Anadolu Efes, where they conceded just 52 and 66 points, respectively, the Reds have seen their opponents score at least 77 points, a number that makes their effort to earn the victory much more difficult.
Although they usually grab more rebounds than their opponents (2nd in total rebounds with 337), the Reds have failed to retain their defensive performance at high levels for 40 minutes and that is why they concede so many points.
Secondly, the Greek squad is one of the worst clubs in the Euroleague in the assists category, despite Vassilis Spanoulis’ presence (3rd in the assist list, with 7.1 per game).
With only 138 assists after nine games, it’s important for the players to understand that a faster and better ball movement is important if they want to be more effective offensively, especially when Spanoulis will not be at his very best.
Otherwise, the squad will again make mediocre performances, like the one against Maccabi Tel-Aviv, when they had a very low percentage from the three-point range (6/33, 18.1%).
Moreover, although the roster is very talented and deep, there are still players that play at very low standards, even though they were expected to make the difference in the beginning of the season.
More specifically, Daniel Hackett, Kostas Papanikolaou and Patric Young should rapidly enhance their performance and step up for the team. Otherwise, the Reds’ playing style becomes very predictable, with only Spanoulis, Giorgos Printezis and Khem Birch executing most plays.
At the same time, Erick Green and Matt Lojeski should become more consistent on both ends of the floor, as their scoring ability from mid and three-point range, respectively, is vital for the squad’s offence.
What is now crucial for Olympiacos is to start playing at very high standards for a series of matches in order to create a winning streak that will help them climb higher up on the table in their effort to secure a spot in the playoffs.
With Euroleague having become so competitive under the new format, coach Sfairopoulos should make his players be at their very best in every game as well as play for one another so as to avoid any major upsets, as the season goes on.
That said, the Reds will try to beat Darussafaka in Istanbul and show they are one of the best clubs in Europe and one of the favourites to win the Euroleague this season.