Despite a dream start, Real Madrid's basketball players saw their hopes of winning their first Euroleague in 18 years crumble to nothing on Sunday night in London. Olympiacos fought back valiantly to retain the title it won last year with a 100-88 victory in the final of the final four in the O2 Centre.
Pablo Laso's men had been nothing short of sensational in the first quarter. In defense, Sergio Llull, with help from Mirza Begic, kept the Greeks' gods, Vassilis Spanoulis and Acie Law, at bay, while at the other end of the court Llull, Rudy Fernández and Nikola Mirotic found space and plenty of three-pointers. The result: a 10-27 Madrid lead.
But the party did not last long. Olympiacos moved up a gear at the start of the second and the Spaniards lost their rhythm, looking uncomfortable going forward. Now finding the three-pointers and imposing a hellish pace, the Greeks ruthlessly clawed back the 27 points Real had taken from them in the first.
And still star man Spanoulis had yet to make his mark. That moment came after the break as he began buffeting the Madrid defense, scoring three three-pointers in little more than a minute. At the start of the final quarter another three-pointer from MVP Spanoulis and the reigning champion was in control (70-62). The last six minutes turned into a terrible ordeal for Laso's team, which found itself incapable of making a final push.
"We feel like shit," a frank Laso admitted in the post-game press conference. "But to lose finals you have to play finals and we wouldn't feel like shit today if we had not been group winners.
"It is not a day to criticize any of my players. We are here thanks to all of them, independent of whether they were in a better or worse state. The fact is that Olympiacos found the net at the key moments," he continued.
"We felt completely powerless because we played a great first quarter, but afterwards we didn't know how to keep hold of that 17-point advantage," added Real captain Felipe Reyes. "I'm going with the feeling that we could have defended better and been tougher, as they were. \[...\] We lacked mental and defensive strength. We competed, but now we only have the idea that we have missed a unique opportunity. Hopefully we will be able to get to another final, and we hope that one won't get away from us."