Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv players could have saved us all the nerve wrecking only if they would have made their average free throws shooting. 20 from 33 (61%) is way below that. But probably the pressure was too much for Pinii Gershon`s players.
But all is well that ends well and on April 28 Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv will Play TAU Ceramica Vitoria in the Final Four semi final in Prague. It will be Maccabi`s fifth F4 in the Gershon`s era and the third in a row and the ninth since this system was introduced in 1988.
The experience of the Maccabi players eventually made the difference. For team captain Derrick Sharp this will be his sixth F4. Anthony Parker & Tal Bursein will play thei fifth, Maceo Baston & Nikola Vujcic their third. Only Tyus Edney in the Olympiacos camp has been there before.
With four minutes top go, Okympiacos led 68-67 after a Quincy Lewis three pointer. Nikola Vujcic. Who until then scored only two points. Put Maccabi 69-68 up. Charisis replied with yet another three pointer and 71-69 for the Reds. Niko was sent to the line and made the two free throws to put the teams level 71-71. Next time he was on the free throws line (2:46 from time), he connected with only one (72-71). On the other end of the court, Will Solomon, produced a brilliant blocked shot on Lewis. Vujcic was fouled and sank both free throws to put Maccabi three up (74-71).
With 1:21 min left, Jamie Arnold in a great game in defense and rebounding, missed two crucial free throws. Tyus Edney connected with one (74-72). With 40 seconds to go, an uncharacteristic miss by Will Solomon. 15 seconds later Sofoklis Schortsanitis was sent to the line and after 6-6 missed his seventh and scored the next one (74-73) Derrick Sharp was cool on the line to put Maccabi 76-73 up. Papamakarios tried a three pointer, missed and Vujcic grabbed the most important rebound of the game. He was fouled and scored one point to make the final score 77-73.
Like in the game in Piraeus a week ago, Olympiacos managed to shut out for most of the game the Maccabi inside men Vujcic & Baston. The visitors led 18-11 in the sixth minute before a 12-0 run by Maccabi crowned by a typical Anthony Parker flying dunk (23-18). Six consecutive points by the huge Schortsanitis evened the score at24-24. Solomon closed the first quarter with two free throws (26-24).
The second period saw Kirk Penney coming out of the cold and scoring 7 points to give Maccbi a 39-31 lead. But Jonas Kazaulskas team came back to 44-40. Solomon missed after a fast break and Seibutis punished Maccabi and at half time the Yellows led only 44-42.
Vujcic scored his first points at the start of the third period and Maccabi opened a 55-45 lead. But Olympiacos came back once again to 62-58 at the end of the period. In the first six minutes of the final quarter, Maccabi scored only five points. Than Vujcic took control and together with the excited supporters led the team to victory.
Vujcic was the most efficient Maccabi player in spite of scoring only 2 FG fron 7 attempts (10 pts in total). But he added to this 6 rbds, 6 asts & 3 bsts.
Solomon was the leading scorer with 18 pts. Parker scored 13 pts & pulled down 12 rbds. Edney 14, Schortsanitis 13, Chatzis 12 & Lewis 11pts, were top scorers for the visitors.
Barcelona was the last team to qualify to the Final Four winning game 3 over Real
In the semi finals on April 28 in Prague: Maccabi vs TAU, Barcelona vs CSKA Moscow.