By Eurohoops Team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Both coming off heartbreak defeats on Thursday’s Semifinals, FC Barcelona captured the third place in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four thanks to the 84-74 victory against Olympiacos Saturday.
Season MVP Nikola Mirotic scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half of the third-place game. Turkish center Sertac Sanli produced 16 points. Cory Higgins and Brandon Davies put in 11 and ten more points, respectively, while Nick Calathes had nine points, 13 assists, and eight rebounds. Alex Abrines surviving an injury scare late in the third period logged eight points.
The team coached by Sarunas Jasikevicius jumped to a 10-2 lead and after trailing a couple of times in the second period recovered with an 8-0 run for a seven-point advantage at the break. The ensuing double-digit cushion early in the second half ensured the lead the rest of the way in Belgrade’s Stark Arena despite Olympiacos getting back into shooting distance midway through the fourth period.
“I think we had good control of the game but then Olympiacos coming back, only from our mistakes,” the Barca boss said commenting on his side almost giving up the lead, “For me, the most important was how the guys came out in the beginning, their mentality. Everybody knows how difficult it is to play this game for the third place.”
“We came here after being first all year and believed we were the best team,” added Calathes replying to a question on the team’s reaction to the loss versus ACB rival Real Madrid in the Semifinals, “In sports, nothing is guaranteed.”
Ex-Barcelona player Sasha Vezenkov went for a game-high 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double after struggling to get things going in the Semifinal opposite Anadolu Efes. Kostas Sloukas paired 14 points with seven assists. Shaquielle McKissic had 11 points and five steals for the team coached by Giorgos Bartzokas, former boss of Barca.
“It was about the fighting spirit. To play together and unselfish, to play for the shirt, although we are professionals,” Bartzokas proudly noted on his team’s season, “I tried to transfer this philosophy to the players. I am really happy that we are doing it. It is a big accomplishment for a team to participate in the Final Four. Our fans are the champions by far in this process.”
Possibly featuring in a EuroLeague game for the last time, Giorgos Printezis got a lot of love from the Olympiacos crowd. The 37-year-old Greek forward, two-time EuroLeague champion, registered one assist in eight minutes. The stands were once again dominated by the supporters of the Reds.
“We definitely need to build from this win for the rest of the season [at the domestic level],” pointed out the winning side’s leading scorer Mirotic, “Obviously, it was tough to play this game, especially emotionally. But with this crowd today, at some point I felt like it was a Final.”
After 2009 and 2012, Barcelona settled third for the third time in team history. Fourth place was the case for Olympiacos in 2009 after losing to Barca in the third-place game in Berlin.
Photo Credit: EuroleagueBasketball.net