Credit: BasketNews/Begum Unal
Credit: BasketNews/Begum Unal
Credit: BasketNews/Begum Unal
Credit: BasketNews/Begum Unal
Credit: BasketNews/Begum Unal
Credit: BasketNews/Begum Unal
Credit: BasketNews/Begum Unal
Credit: BasketNews/Begum Unal
Credit: BasketNews/Begum Unal
Credit: BasketNews/Begum Unal

Although the 2022 EuroLeague Final Four is not quite over yet, Olympiacos Piraeus are looking to finish the season strong.

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After several last-possession wins in previous competitions, starting in 2012, the Greek side got a taste of their own medicine upon watching Vasilije Micic sink an almost buzzer-beating three-point shot that pushed Anadolu Efes Istanbul to their third final game and Olympiacos to the third-place game

Despite the elimination, everyone at the team's camp are trying to hold their heads high. After all, Micic's shot can't cross out a season in which the three-time EuroLeague champs exceeded expectations. 

"We've had an amazing season. We won the Greek Cup, qualified for the Final Four and we have the home-court advantage in the Greek League. I can't complain to anyone," Giorgos Bartzokas succinctly described the Reds' campaign in the Stark Arena mixed zone talking to media. 

Micic signed a heart-breaking finale for Olympiacos in their first Final Four in the post-Spanoulis era. However, the Reds have no other option but to move on.

"Today it's another day and we have already let it go," guard Tyler Dorsey told BasketNews.

"We're not blaming anything. It was nothing specifically. It all came down to a big shot. We can analyze what we should have done better, but that's life in basketball and we got to learn from it."

No matter how painful the loss was, accentuated by the way the outing was decided, Olympiacos can feel nothing but gratitude for the way this campaign has panned out. That's Bartzokas' mentality - and also something that the club's owners and co-presidents embrace. Brothers Panagiotis and Giorgos Angelopoulos paid a visit to the squad's Friday practice to encourage everyone ahead of what lies ahead.

Player of the Game
Shane  Larkin
EFF
21
Shane Larkin
Points 21
Accuracy 6-18
Rebounds 0
Assists 7

After all, the third-place game against equally disappointed FC Barcelona is of little interest. The main motivation, at least from Olympiacos' side, comes from their 11,500 fans who stole the show before, during and even after Wednesday's semifinal. 

"Those games are really difficult because both teams are disappointed by the way they lost," Bartzokas thinks. "For us, it's important to finish the Final Four with a win because our fans are here." 

"We want to finish the season with a win and give joy to our fans, but also in order to boost our morale," forward Sasha Vezenkov adds talking to BasketNews.

"It hurts, right now but we have to keep going. We cannot forget the Efes game so soon, but this team is made to face tough times and we have to fight our way out of it," he continued. 

Vezenkov, an All-EuroLeague First Team selection, went scoreless in the first half, before finishing with only 5 points on 2/10 from the field. He was also the man who had to defend Vasilije Micic's final play. His Final Four debut could have been better, he admits.

"I can't be happy. It's my first Final Four, but I want to use all the bitterness and disappointment as a fuel so that I can return with my team to a Final Four.

Bitterness prevails because we happened to be on the wrong side. A great player made a huge shot," he said.

"The taste is more bitter than sweet, for sure," forward Shaquielle McKissic maintains.

"Bu it's a different mood today. We feel like we've over-accomplished this year. It would have been good to make the championship game, but it's cool."

Once a game is over, one can ponder on what has happened. Bartzokas thinks that Micic's shot was big, but not everything. 

"The game came down to details - not only in the last play, but earlier as well," he stressed.

"In these games you have to make some big shots. We had good balance, scoring near the basket, but usually the team making the shots, wins. We rushed to finish the game, but the general picture is that we have to be grateful for the year we've had and to our fans for the support."

"The hard part is getting here," McKissic holds.

"We beat them in the last-second shot in Piraeus, and maybe if we had the ball, maybe we could have beaten them. I maybe had a chance to lead Larkin to come over and try to help block the shot. But they're good players and they'll really make you pay. So, I decided to stay home and Micic had a tough shot."

However, there's another issue that Giorgos Bartzokas, already voted as the EuroLeague Coach of the Year, put forward. 

"You can't buy experience. It was the first Final four for a lot of our guys. I'm sure that next time, they will be more experienced to control the pressure that we had," the Greek play-caller pointed out.

"I wish our inexperience hadn't played any part, but that didn't happen. We made a lot of wrong decisions and missed several open shots.

Basketball is like life, it has ups and downs. At the moment, we are at the very bottom, but all year long we have been on the other end. We're having an amazing year, but it's not over yet," he went on to say. 

Vezenkov agrees with his coach.

"Experience certainly played a big part. Real Madrid managed to win by having many players with several Final Fours in their careers. This time, it was on Efes' side. The nervousness certainly did exist. The team that manages it best wins."

Nevertheless, not all Olympiacos' players share the same opinion.

"I don't think experience mattered," Tyler Dorsey firmly replied.

"If you watch the whole game, it came down to the last couple of possessions and plays. At the end of the day, it's either you make the shot or you don't, whether you get the stop or you don't.

Unfortunately, we didn't. But we're here, we're having a great season and there's still a lot of other things to accomplish."

Credit Olympiacos BC

Breaking down the elements and factors that came into play and largely decided the outcome, Vezenkov mentions his team's bad start in the third quarter and also their scrappy finish, as they went scoreless for four minutes with the score 71-70 for Efes. 

"We kind of lost our minds in the third quarter and in the last five minutes of the game," the Bulgarian forward said.

"We acted like we were losing by ten points. We had some very good  looks in attack. Defensively, in the fourth quarter we made a great effort, holding Efes to 11 points."  

For another Final Four rookie, Tyler Dorsey, shots started falling in the third quarter. In fact, that was the only period in the game when the former Maccabi player scored. Dorsey went 4/9 from the field, but "Shane Larkin and Vasilije Micic weren't really efficient", as he notes.

Still, the Serbian guard hit important shots at the right time. "What can you do at this point? " Dorsey asked.

Placing emphasis on Efes' go-to guys left plenty of room to Elijah Bryant to shine with 16 points on 6/8 field goals. Dorsey had played with him at Maccabi Tel Aviv and was partly happy that his former teammate did well.

"Elijah Bryant was open a lot of the time, because we were overhelping sometimes. That's my guy, one of my teammates, and I'm proud of him."

For players like Shaquielle McKissic, the work never stops. 

"I'm already back in the gym since the buzzer went off. It's something I want to get back to, a lot of things that i want to improve.

I want to become a lot more lethal. I came into the season not as healthy or as explosive as I wanted to be, but now I'm ready to work."

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Olympiacos Piraeus
Anadolu Efes Istanbul
46%
24/52
Field goals
44%
26/59
34
Rebounds
34
18
Assists
20
7
Steals
4
16
Fouls
23
3
Blocks
3

Teams leaders

Nikola  Mirotic
16,9 PTS
65% 2P%
46% 3P%
Aleksandr  Vezenkov
13,5 PTS
66% 2P%
37% 3P%
Nikola  Mirotic
5,2 REB
4,4 DREB
0,9 OREB
Aleksandr  Vezenkov
5,8 REB
4,4 DREB
1,4 OREB
Nick  Calathes
6,1 As
1,9 TO
24 MIN
Konstantinos  Sloukas
4,9 As
2,2 TO
25 MIN