The 2011-12 Turkish Airlines Euroleague season champion will be crowned on Sunday in Istanbul in a showdown between CSKA Moscow and Olympiacos Piraeus, who won their respective semifinals on Friday. CSKA Moscow survived one of the greatest semifinal games in Euroleague history to edge mighty Panathinaikos 66-64. The game went down to the wire and the Greens had a chance to tie it – or win it – on the last possession, but CSKA’s rock-solid defense denied the Greek champs even a shot. Andrei Kirilenko led the winners with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Alexey Shved added 15 points – including several clutch fourth-quarter scores – and Milos Teodosic, who nailed the go-ahead bucket with 38.1 seconds to go, scored 12. Sarunas Jasikevicius paced Panathinaikos with a season-high 19 points, but lost for the first time in his fifth Final Four. Mike Batiste added 11 points, Dimitris Diamantidis tallied 10 plus 6 assists and Kostas Kaimakoglou posted 10 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists in defeat.
Panathinaikos dominated early and led by double figures for most of the first quarter, which ended at 29-15. However a solid defensive effort by CSKA carried the Russian champs back to tie it before Batiste put Panathinaikos ahead 34-32 at halftime. CSKA took its first lead early in the third quarter and what ensued from then on was a basketball classic for the ages. Diamantidis drove through the crowd to keep Panathinaikos up by 4 and give his team a 55-51 lead going into the final 10 minutes of the game.
Jasikevicius hit a jumper to put Panathinaikos back up 59-58 with seven minutes to go. Seconds later Batiste went to the bench with 4 personal fouls, no team scored in more than three minutes before Alexey Shved cut through the opposing defense for a reverse layup. After couple of turnovers, one on each side, Jasikevicius took over when he was needed most. With less than three minutes left, he sank a floater to give his team the lead, stole a ball and sank a three to make it 64-60. CSKA’s Shved scored three points to cut the lead 64-63. Coach Zeljko Obradovic called a timeout with 1 minute and 26 seconds to go as everything was set for a wild finish.
Batiste missed a hook-shot in a mismatch, then Teodosic hit a huge jumper immediately after his own in-bound pass to put CSKA up 65-64 with 38.1 seconds left on the clock. Jasikevicius tried to answer right back, but his attempt to drive to the basket was not successful. Shved went to the line with 21 seconds left in the game and hit only the first free throw, but Batiste did not manage to secure the defensive rebound. The ball went to CSKA and they ran 11 seconds off the clock before Teodosic was fouled. But he missed both free-throws giving Panathinaikos 8.3 seconds for the final possession. However CSKA’s great defense stymied the Greens, who did not get off a final shot, which allowed CSKA to celebrate a tough win and move on to Sunday’s final!
Olympiacos Piraeus will play for its second Euroleague crown after outlasting FC Barcelona Regal 68-64 in another thrilling semifinal showdown. Vassilis Spanoulis starred for Coach Ivkovic’s squad with 21 points and 6 assists – the last of which to Joey Dorsey put the Reds up two possessions with 16.1 seconds to go and paved the way to victory. Olympiacos led for much of the contest, but Barcelona never fell too far behind and was always in the thick of the hunt.
But in the end Olympiacos got the job done at both ends and pulled out a tough win to get back to the title game for the second time in three years. Georgios Printezis added 14 points for the winners. Juan Carlos Navarro paced Barcelona with 18 points and Boni Ndong had 10 in defeat. Barcelona was hindered by poor three-point shooting – 3 of 19 (15.8%) – which cancelled out its 43-33 rebounding edge. Olympiacos made 9 of 20 from downtown (45%).
The game was close throughout with Olympiacos generally retaining a 4-to-8 point lead much of the game. Barcelona came within 66-64 in the closing minutes after Ndong hit three of four free throws. Marcelinho Huertas missed a three-pointer that would put Barca in the lead with 35 seconds left. After that miss Spanoulis’s assist to Dorsey gave Olympiacos the 68-64 lead with 16.1 seconds left. Dorsey was fouled but missed his free throw after which Ndong missed a hook-shot, Mantzaris grabbed the rebound and an army of Olympiacos fans could celebrate.
Thanks to our media partners, the Euroleague for the content and photos.