By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Olympiacos Piraeus became the first team to secure homecourt advantage in the 2023 EuroLeague playoffs. The Reds put on a strong defensive effort vs. struggler ASVEL Villeurbanne to take a 81 – 55 blowout win at home and improve to a league-best 22-9.
Thomas Walkup (11 points, seven assists, three steals), Shaq McKissic (11 points, three steals), and Kostas Papanikolaou (10 points) scored in double figures and led a very balanced Olympiacos performance. Their squad took an early 22-7 advantage in the first quarter and never looked back, save from a brief moment in the second quarter when ASVEL cut the deficit to 29 – 24.
“It feels great,” Walkup said. “[Homecourt advantage was] the next thing on the list, so it feels good to check that off. We keep pushing, for another one on Friday, so we’ll try to be ready for that. I feel good, I do what the team asks, and I’m super comfortable with my role and how the team plays. It’s a super fun system to play in, and one through 12, I think everybody is having fun playing basketball, which is not to be taken for granted at this level”.
ASVEL, which was without superstar Nando De Colo and Amine Noua (who had scored the game-winner in the first-leg clash between the two teams) tried to remain competitive in the first half (37-29) but didn’t manage to fight vs. Olympiacos after the break and manage with their short roster. The hosts closed the third period up 56 – 39 and cruised to victory down the stretch.
Retin Obasohan scored 12 and Alex Tyus had 10 points plus six rebounds for ASVEL. “We could have played better offensively,” ASVEL coach TJ Parker said. “We made two or three mistakes on defense but our offense wasn’t there tonight.”
With an eye on the playoffs
Olympiacos coach Giorgos Bartzokas was delighted to see his team get the important homecourt advantage but knows that the season for him and his guys is actually only beginning, in a way.
“We feel that we are just at the start,” Bartzokas said. “Us coaches and the players have the experience from last season’s playoffs. Playoffs are war and not easy, regardless of who we face. Every team that fights for the playoffs is in good condition.”
“I’m feeling great; [home-court advantage] is a big-time achievement,” Bartzokas had mentioned in the post-game flash interview. “We cannot ignore that we’re talking about the toughest EuroLeague ever, and three games before the end of the regular season we did it. It’s amazing. Congratulations to the players. ASVEL didn’t have the motivation except to perform in EuroLeague. We had to share our time and manage our energy because we have another game in two days.”