Gibson: Olympiacos Wins Euroleague Championship on Buzzer Beater

ISTANBUL  —  There wasn’t a uniformed soul in Istanbul with as much Euroleague pedigree as CSKA Moscow’s Ramunas Siskauskas.

With 9.7 seconds left and his team up a single point over Olympiacos, the 34-year-old former MVP strolled to the line, staring at a pair of freebies that would bring the two-time champion two points closer to a third.

He missed the first.  Then he missed the second.

Olympiacos secured the ball off the rim, and Vassilis Spanoulis raced upcourt through a frantically scattered CSKA defense that hadn’t had a chance to settle.

Then Spanoulis, often maligned for his tendency to hog all the late game heroics for himself, saw Georgios Printezis alone on the baseline and sent it his way. Without dribbling, the Greek power forward thrust the ball delicately over Andrei Kirilenko’s head and through the net with only 0.7 seconds left on the clock.

Siskauskas tried to call a timeout that CSKA didn’t have—the refs either didn’t notice or didn’t care—and Milos Teodosic chucked the ball nearly the length of the court toward a streaking Kirilenko.  As AK leapt for it, it was Olympaicos’ 6-foot-6 center Kyle Hines who jumped with him to poke it away from the MVP and secure Olympiacos their first Euroleague Championship since 1997 with a 62-61 win.

Quickness beating length.  Appropriate.  Here’s how the final 10.1 seconds looked live from my seat in Istanbul.

That beauty counted for two of Printezis’ 12, but Spanoulis took home the Final Four MVP (that’s how I cast my ballot as well) with 15 points and two assists in the Finals to go with his 21 and six in the semifinal.  Kostas Papanikolaou was perfect on the weekend for the Reds, going 3-for-3 in the semis and 5-for-5 in the Finals for 27 points in all (18 of them against Moscow).

Kirilenko’s 12 and 10 went with four blocks and a game-high 25 index rating and Teodosic’s hit four first half 3s before going cold in the second, finishing with 15.  His icy stroke was a big reason that CSKA Moscow—after their furious comeback on Friday night against Panathinaikos—let a 14-point halftime lead vanish down the stretch.

Nenad Krstic had just 11 points and a single rebound.  It’s the second awful outing of the weekend for the Serbian big man who painted a picture of consistency throughout the season while picking up All-Euroleague honors.

Acie Law, who wasn’t supposed to play for Olympiacos after hurting his ankle in the last minute in the semifinal, caused quite a stir when he warmed up and then checked in at the tail end of the first and it became apparent that Dusan Ivkovic, the wily 68-year-old Serbian coach had pulled the wool over our eyes once more.  Ivkovic said after the game that Law hadn’t been able to walk down the stairs “for meals” over the last two days, and made a point to praise his toughness.

That might be why Acie—not Spanoulis, not Printezis, not Papanikolaou—walked off the floor with the net draped around his neck.  ith a bumpy NBA career and a short stint in Belgrade behind him, Law talked about what it felt like to win a Euroleague title in his first season across the Atlantic.  Also, a message for Mama Law on Mother’s Day.

Even if a limping Law could muster neither a point nor an assist in his 12 minutes of “action,” his surprise appearance on the floor was largely symbolic of the Reds’ season as a whole.  While a slashed budget and duct-taped roster should have left Olympiacos vulnerable, it only made them more dangerous.

Dangerous enough to fire back in the face of an AK47, and dangerous enough to become Euroleague Champions.

Nick Gibson, editor of EuroleagueAdventures.com, covers Euroleague and other European basketball developments for SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear weekly. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

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