Nikos Papadogiannis believes that Olympiacos is approaching its red lines and can no longer afford to fly in the clouds and bet on the acquired speed of the past two years.
The mitigating factors are many and strong, but I think it is preferable for Olympiakos and fairer to the truth of the field to leave the excuses aside. When the finalists and near-champions of the previous competition lose at home to an opponent with Eurocup material, then something goes terribly wrong. It is premature to say that the game against Baskonia looks like the end of the road, but it looks equally difficult to see where the next bright corner lies.
Olympiakos’ problems are excruciating and not easily solved. How exactly will Walkup’s batteries be recharged, how will Milutinov’s battered body regain strength and health, how will Papanikolaou and Larentzakis rest, who will provide solutions when Williams-Goss and Peters remember that for years they made their living as compars?
Even if “Wolf” McIntyre found iron in his last bite, the victory of Olympiakos will seem to have been taken from the teeth of defeat, not exactly a random event but a product of special weight and speed acquired from the previous years. The bleeding of the “red whites” is now noticeable, on all levels: grades, intellectually, psychologically.
For a team overworked, struggling and limping, a seven-man rotation in early November verges on the unforgivable. Giorgos Bartzokas insists in all tones that the team will improve dramatically once they are full, and that he owes faith and loyalty to the players who have driven him white-faced for the past two years, but I fear that the puzzle will take time to complete and that the pieces Olympiacos has at its disposal do not fit together well.
Alec Peters may have been the leading “red and white” in today’s match (and not only), but he is still the player who was deemed unworthy of participation in the Kaunas final. Isaiah Kanaan may have filled the Basque basket with three-pointers and turned the game around, but he is still the guard who had one foot in the front door all summer. It is not possible for fugitives and reserves to pull the oar of a whole year…
It is of course pointless to be homesick after every defeat Sasha Vezenkov or Kostas Slukas: the two of them left for other states and are not going to return, nor are they going to find replacements in the month of November – let alone among themselves – capable of wearing the shoes of the fugitives without them constricting them.
It is even more pointless to make fun of each other with alleged violations of regulations and to be caught up in a frenzy of pursuit: the voices about the last phase are unreal, since no Basques stepped on the touchline before the throw-in. There was no violation even to the mind.
The red line is approaching and Olympiacos is called upon to face reality with realism, whatever that entails. Transcriptional enhancement? Rethinking the racing philosophy? Vote of confidence in players with minimal participation? McKissick is late, Milutinov hit badly, Sikma is missing, and the problem with Manila’s underdogs (especially Walkup) isn’t solved without 2-3 weeks of vacation in the Caribbean.
The picture of the last eight minutes was heartbreaking, although Olympiacos came one breath away from victory. The four mistakes of Williams-Goss, Papanikolaou, Fal betray a clouded mind, while almost all the shots were made in bad conditions and by the wrong players.
Thomas Walkup completed his second straight game without a point, but his slow reactions on defense were even more telling. From the 32nd minute onwards (score 64-67), the only Olympiakos player who created conditions for scoring (two points, three points, shots, a total of 7 personal points) was the courageous Giannoulis Larentzakiscapped by a 3-pointer by Alec Peters (the layup shot, 72-71) off an assist by Kanaan at the 2:40 mark.
Dusko Ivanovic understood early that Olympiacos had no antidote for the energy of the unrestrained Moneke and created a high, fast-dynamic formation (with the Nigerian in the “3” next to Sendekerskis, Costello) to which the Greek champions had no answer.
The very Moneke scored a crucial basket in a phase where the “redThey had the luxury of fouls, the saddest of rebounds was -8, Olympiacos looked like a slow-motion team for hours and hours. When was the last time we saw him at a record below 50 percent and with three home losses? The next three games could be a crutch, but that counter-attack was supposed to start tonight against vulnerable Baskonia rather than next Tuesday in Belgrade.