Efes came roaring out the gates in Game 4 but it didn’t matter. Olympiacos just took one look at Vassilis Spanoulis and Mr Final Four took care of business, writes Emmet Ryan
For anyone else, that start could have phased them. Anadolu Efes came out like a train. A chippy as hell start saw Vassilis Spanoulis get to the line to take a technical free throw with literally a second on the clock. The home side was sending a message. It was going to play physical and fast. Run and hit they did. Two monster dunks by an unleashed Cedi Osman coupled with 10 points in 3 and a half minutes from Jayson Granger pushed Efes into an early 18-6 lead. Bryant Dunston’s big block on Billy set up the latter of Osman’s two breakaway scores. Efes were looking to bury the visitors early.
Another side might have wilted. It’s easy to freeze in terror in the face of such fury but Olympiacos just had too much smarts. They chipped away to nearly halve the deficit at the end of the first. A wash, rinse, repeat approach by Efes to start the second quarter stalled faster. They were running an unsustainable pace and Olympiacos just needed to let them get gassed before releasing you know who.
Here was a rare kind of test for the Reds. Efes had, in a great rarity, brought real numbers to their home game and this crowd was hot. The Abdi Ipekci Arena was an intimidating spot. It was no Oaka, this wasn’t Belgrade, but it was still unexpectedly ferocious. Billy just went to work.
A three from Spanoulis shortly after the break gave Oly the lead for the first time since 1-0 but Efes ran with them. The hosts were all too aware of the way the Reds can just take over once a deficit has been clawed back and were ready to fight back. Olympiacos put the foot down to make three threes in the space of four possessions but still the home side stood with them. The difference wasn’t on the scoreboard, where the visitors only held a 1 point advantage going into the final quarter, it was in the tank.
Efes had thrown all they had at Oly yet the Reds were still smiling and processing. While the tired bodies of the home side struggled to push on again, Olympiacos was able to keep its pace even. Slowly they made the lead bigger until boom. A big time three by Billy to give them a double digit lead. The kind of punch to the mid-section that takes whatever wind you have left away.
In four final fours, Billy’s left with the cup and the MVP trophy on three occasions. He’s the demon that haunts CSKA Moscow still even after the final four hoodoo was broken in Berlin. When Vassilis Spanoulis is in a must-win situation, he may not always triumph but you’re always terrified he’s going to pull something out of nowhere.
Here, it was almost casual. 18 points on 5 of 11 from deep and the crowd was sent to the stairs with time on the clock. No noise would intimidate, no history would be made by Efes on this night. Billy just went to work and Game 5 is on Tuesday.