Real Madrid swept the series with Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, prevailing at OAKA by 89-82 and leaving the Greens out of the Final Four for the seventh consecutive year.
Rick Pitino’s team made a good second quarter in Game 3 before their home crowd, but overall in the second half of the game they failed to stop Real Madrid’s offense and succumbed to the reigning Euroleague champions.
Matt Lojeski accompanied Nick Calathes, playing a near season-high 27 minutes, registering 16 points on 5/7 field goals, 3 assists and 1 rebound. However, the experienced guard-forward was not enough to hand the Greek team the much-coveted victory.
Lojeski, who turns 34 next July, talked with TalkBasket.net about the Real Madrid-Panathinaikos OPAP series, making an overall appraisal of a rather turbulent Euroleague season for the Greeks.
Q: Matt, what was the decisive factor for this 0-3?
A: Game 1, when we really had control and should have never lost. Today, it was the same thing as in the regular season game. We were up at half-time, started bad in the second half and in the fourth quarter, they played good offense, got the offensive rebound or scored in the last seconds. They played good basketball and we found the way almost to lose a couple of games, especially the first one. I think we would have a different series had we won Game 1.
Q: What made the difference tonight?
A: Rebounding; Campazzo played great, Taylor was good all series offensively and defensively. Tonight, just about everybody contributed offensively and defensively. They had 5-6 guys scoring around 10-15 points.
Q: What’s your taste after this Euroleague season? Bittersweet or just bitter?
A: We had many ups and downs. We started the season not great, then came back a little bit. We went into a slump but came into the play-offs playing really well. To get swept with the momentum we had … that hurts.
Q: Did you notice any similarities or differences compared to last year?
A: Obviously, in Game 1 last year we played unbelievable. Besides that, all other games were pretty similar. Even last year, we had the chance to win the first game in Madrid. it was really close and it went down to the last couple of plays. There were little things in close games that we had to do better in order to win.
Q: Maybe Panathinaikos relied too much on the first game of the series. Is it so?
A: No, we knew we let them get away in the first game. We expected that Game 2 was going to be hard because they saw that we can beat them. Tonight, we obviously thought we should win at home but it didn’t happen.
Q: How do you bounce back from here?
A: Now, we have to move forward. It’s just like any other season. We got some time before we play the big games in the play-offs. We’ll try to stay focused to win the Greek League.
Q: How hard will it be to regain focus?
A: It’s hard because we go from such big games to playing against smaller teams until the finals. I’m sure we’ll be ready when the time comes.
Q: The thing is that you don’t really know if Olympiacos will decide to play the next time you go against them.
A: I hope they change their mind in the play-offs. I don’t think it will be the same not playing those big games.
Q: How would you evaluate the season so far for your team?
A: In the end, it ended up being just like last year when we didn’t go to the Final Four. Real was for sure playing better than us. They were a better team all season long. We had our chance in the series, but missed it.