Roca Team will not play the final of the EuroLeague on Sunday. For the Monaco basketball team, the beautiful dream came to a cruel end on Friday, as it lost the semifinal to Olympiakos by a clear margin: 76-62.
The Greek top favourites played a superior game in the second half in particular, while Monaco were short-circuited at that stage and did almost nothing right after finishing the first half with a remarkable twelve-point lead. This is certainly a setback for manager Sasa Obradovic, who immediately afterwards had no explanation for the hard fall of his team: “I wouldn’t know what it was after half-time but suddenly everything went wrong for us. Was it a lack of experience or a lack of confidence? In any case, we played a very bad game both defensively and offensively and we couldn’t react anymore. The elimination is a hard lesson, from which we must certainly learn something for the future.”
Olympiakos were already the top favourite for the Final Four, which takes place in the Zalgirio Arenas of Kaunas (Lithuania) this weekend. The Greek team, which had finished top in the regular season, can win the European championship for the fourth time and its fans created a unique atmosphere among the 14,000 spectators. In addition, Olympiakos had already eliminated Roca Team in the all-deciding fifth game of the quarter-finals last year. But in the regular season, Monaco had just won the two head-to-head matches and therefore the Greeks were anything but sure of their triumph beforehand. Monaco was considered the dark horse of the tournament.
The game got off to a nervous start with both teams being very impure in their goal attempts, so the score was only 2-1 to Monaco after two minutes. In the end, the game only got going after six minutes (with a score of 10-6 for Roca Team). A fine series of three-pointers followed, with Mike James distinguishing himself with two successful attempts. In the end, Monaco ended the first quarter with a 20-14 lead.
In the second quarter, Monaco first ran away, but then Olympiakos came back strongly and it was tied again within three minutes (22-22). But in a timeout, Sasa Obradovic corrected his team and suddenly things started to get better thanks to Loyd, Okobo and James. Monaco was again the dominant side and would end the first half with a twelve-point lead (41-29).
What happened after the break will always remain a mystery, but it was quickly clear that the Greek team had come out of the dressing room more determined. A tidal wave poured over Roca Team as the Greeks started the third quarter with a 14-0 run within four minutes, completely erasing the deficit. The Greek fans were getting louder and louder. Only after five and a half minutes did Okobo make the first score for Monaco (43-43) and it would prove to be the only one in this quarter. Olympiakos, led by Kostas Papanikalaou, Moustapha Fall and Sasha Vezenkov, threw another series of 13-0. In short, 27-2 in ten minutes. The Monegasques were literally thrown out of heaven. Suddenly the score was 56-43.
Even in the final ten minutes, a brief rebound couldn’t bring the tension back, even though it was 60-53 at one moment, but then Olympiakos took the reins again and won easily 76-62 because with five minutes to play it was already clear to everyone that there was no risk for a comeback for Roca Team. Especially offensively, Monaco suffered from many misses throughout the game. Almost nothing worked after the resumption with Mike James, Jordan Loyd and especially with Lithuanian hero Donatas Motiejunas. Roca Team now has again both feet on the ground and will play the final for third place on Sunday and can then focus on the play-offs for the French championship. In that, it will be the favourite, although it never managed to win this title and last year ended up losing to ASVEL in the closing stages of the fifth all-deciding match. On a positive note, Monaco did win the Coupe de France a month ago.
FILE PHOTO: Sasa Obradovic