It all comes own to this. After the 30 game regular season, the best of 5 playoffs, and Friday’s semi-finals, only two teams are left in the Euroleague Final Four. Fenerbahce are looking to make history while Olympiacos hope to claim a third title since 2012. Emmet Ryan on the Euroleague Championship game
Friday was almost too much to script. Olympiacos hung with CSKA until Vassilis Spanoulis caught fire and they made it to their fourth championship game in the last six years. Fenerbahce, in their third straight final four, ruled from pillar to post against Real Madrid. This Madrid team, for all its talent, hadn’t been able to match Fener over the past two seasons and the de facto hosts showed why once again in the semi-finals.
Olympiacos know they have a solid chance here. The front court has enough variety to live with the power of Fenerbahce. Patrick Young will bring power, Khem Birch length, and Nikola Milutinov the old school versatility at the 5. The Greek big three of Spanoulis, Kostas Papanikolaou, and Georgios Printezis will take on a big chunk of the scoring load while the likes of Ioannis Papapetreu, Dimitris Agravansi, and Vangelis Mantzaris will undoubtedly be called on to do major jobs in reserve. The key man amongst all of them however may prove to be Erick Green. The American put in some vital sessions in the playoff series with Anadolu Efes and, after a rough start to the game, came up with a vital three late against CSKA on Friday.
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For Fener it’s all about business. They know Ekpe Udoh is the best big in Europe and they know he’s going to play heavy minutes here. Udoh’s in for a fight against the Oly rotation at 5 but he’s more than ready for it. Jan Vesely and Nikola Kalinic are wildly different players but their tandem at the four could prove a key factor here. Then there’s the back-court rotation which we can expect lots of variants of between Kostas Sloukas, James Nunnally, Bobby Dixon, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. We know Sloukas will be there plenty to keep things sane when the pressure is on. Dixon will have his pull-up hero ball moments, while Nunnally knows it’s about using his size when called on in the backcourt.
Bogdanovic however is under the microscope more than anyone in this game. The Serbian is likley taking the floor of a Euroleague game for the last time before he moves to the NBA. He wants to leave a champion and he wants to make an impression after a quiet display on Friday night. This isn’t his ideal match-up but that could well drive Bogdanovic more to deliver.
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Then, of course, there’s the rivalry between Spanoulis and Zeljko Obradovic going back to when the former left Panathinaikos for the Reds. The psychology is obvious but Zoc also knows the bigger job on his hands isn’t in shutting down Billy. Oly will go deeper into their bench than Fener, that gives Ioannis Sfairopoulos more wriggle room. Obradovic simply can’t risk a mistake with his switches in this one, particularly if it stays close.
Fener however just look too good here nd they also look ready. They were BiE’s pick at the start of the season and, while they had their troughs, when the business end of the season came around they proved why they were so favoured from the off.
Fearless prediction: Fenerbahce