Olympiakos and Regal FC Barcelona duel in Euroleague Final Four
In a rematch of the 2010 Turkish Airlines Euroleague title game, FC Barcelona Regal takes on Olympiacos BC Piraeus in what promises to be a very exciting semifinal. Barcelona arrives in Istanbul with the best record in the competition (18-1) and on pace to set the Euroleague record for fewest point allowed. Indeed, at 61.5 points allowed per game entering the Final Four, no team this century has played better defense than this Barcelona squad. Olympiacos has won six of its last eight games to make it to the Final Four, which shows the Reds’ character, intensity and determination. Both teams are at the Final Four for the third time in four years, proving once again why they have a hard-earned place among the very elite of European basketball clubs. Barcelona is playing its 12th Final Four, which is an all-time record, and looks for its third continental crown. Olympiacos has the chance to win its second Euroleague title. Current head coach Dusan Ivkovic led the Reds to the trophy back in 1997.
Both teams are injury-free.
Obviously such a complicated showdown has many keys, but perhaps the biggest one will be the matchup between both teams' superstars, Juan Carlos Navarro of FCB Regal and Vassilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos. Both players have been Euroleague champions and earned Final Four MVP honors in the past.
Navarro, the competition's all-time top scorer, is at the prime of his career and dominating the game with his legendary one-on-one skills, unlimited shooting range and endless talent. Spanoulis offers undeniable leadership, outstanding driving skills and great character and determination. Navarro will get plenty of help at both wings, especially from experienced swingmen Chuck Eidson and Pete Mickeal.
Eidson reached the Euroleague final with Maccabi Electra last season and wants to go further this time around. Mickeal is an aggressive small forward with no weaknesses in his game, who led Barcelona to win the Euroleague in 2010. Mickeal faces an intriguing matchup against another left-handed small forward, Kostas Papanikolaou of Olympiacos. Eidson will not have it easy against Kostas Sloukas, whose court sense, poise and great performances in crunch time have made a difference for the Reds.
Joe Ingles and Xavi Rabaseda provide deep range and intensity off Barcelona's bench. Coach Ivkovic could use defensive stopper Michalis Pelekanos to guard Navarro or bring three-point bombers Marko Keselj and Martynas Gecevicius off the bench to spread the floor. Keselj can use his size and experience to go against Ingles and Eidson.
The point guard battle is equally important as Olympiacos can use Sloukas, usual starter Evangelos Mantzaris, Acie Law or even get Spanoulis to run their offense. Law must use his aggressiveness and driving skills against floor general Marcelinho Huertas, who has been in great shape recently. Victor Sada, who is always essential for Coach Xavi Pascual, is a key player, who will likely use his great defensive skills, toughness and athleticism against Law and Spanoulis.
Olympiacos needs its most experienced big men to step up in such an important game, so the Reds expect a lot from Georgios Printezis, Pero Antic and Kyle Hines. Printezis can hit the three-point shot, run the floor like a guard and score in the low post. He splits playing time with Pero Antic at power forward.
Printezis will not have it easy against Fran Vazquez, the Euroleague's all-time blocked shots leader. Antic must use his size and high basketball IQ against Erazem Lorbek, who is having a career-best season and leading Barcelona in scoring and rebounding. Barcelona has more frontcourt options in rock-solid center Boni Ndong, three-point threat C.J. Wallace and mighty Kosta Perovic.
Vazquez, Ndong and Perovic must box out and play with a lot of energy against Joey Dorsey and Kyle Hines, whose intensity and winning mentality have taken the Reds to the Final Four. Lazaros Papadopoulos gives Olympiacos another frontcourt option due to his experience, effective hook shots and toughness. Expect an intense battle in which only the winner will survive and keep fighting for Euroleague glory!
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