The Final Four curse of CSKA Moscow through Olympiacos never left

It seems that CSKA Moscow’s EuroLeague Final Four jinx never left them after all.

The Muscovites won the EuroLeague crown last year as the old competition format gave way to a new era and a new beginning for European club basketball’s premier tournament this season with an exciting new league setup. CSKA, the players and its fans thought that the Final Four curse had gone with old style format.

But unfortunately for the Russian juggernaut, they came back in a big way, along with another curse that they haven’t been able to shake off since 2012.

Enter: Olympiacos, and American Erick Green.

For the fourth time since 2012 that Olympiacos have faced off against CSKA Moscow, the Greeks have emerged victorious and on three occasions, the Russian side enjoyed a comfortable margin only to be denied in the fourth quarter.

And it was Green, who came up clutch, drilling a three-pointer with 42.5 seconds remaining to give Olympiacos a 79-76 lead to cancel out Milos Teodosic’s game-tying triple with just over a minute left. Perhaps it was not as memorable as Georgios Printezis’ game-winner in the 2012 championship game between the two combatants in the same arena.

But in the end, Green’s heroics, coupled with a late three with just under two minutes by veteran talisman Vassilis Spanoulis made for the same result.

Erick Green hit a clutch three-pointer to give Olympiacos a fourth straight win over CSKA Moscow in EuroLeague Final Four encounters. Photo: EuroLeague Basketball.

“This feels amazing, man,” Green stated afterwards. “This is a team that was there. We are all excited for Sunday and now we have to celebrate this. It felt great to finally hit those big shots after missing some easy ones I normally make.

“We all know Spanoulis will do that. We know that even if he has one, two, three bad quarters, he will show up at the end. We were okay at half-time, we did a good job. We stayed on our average and coach told us to play tough and that’s what we did.”

Spanoulis, along with Printezis and Kostas Papanikolaou led the way with 14 points. All three were part of that incredible night in the same venue in 2012 when they captured the EuroLeague title. And like they did, five years ago, they never gave up.

“We didn’t quit,” said Spanoulis, who has played in all four of Olympiacos’ wins over CSKA since 2012.

“We didn’t play so good but in the end we managed to play good offence and take the game. You have to build this. The experience helped us. This confidence to be with a clear mind in the final minutes is something you build with the years. I don’t know how I do it, I try to help my team, I try to do my best and thanks to God we managed to win.”

For CSKA, 2016’s glorious triumph seems like a distant memory as the ghosts of their 2013 and 2015 semi-final heartbreak against Olympiacos have come back with a vengeance.

“History says we lost two semi-finals against Olympiacos since I had the head coaching job here,” explained CSKA coach Dimitris Itoudis. “They have a great team, but I don’t need to answer that specifically about Olympiacos. There are four great teams here. History doesn’t play basketball, the present moment plays.”