After thirty-seven games, one more than the opposing team, Olimpia takes the field for the final act of the season, the series that is worth the Scudetto and for the third consecutive time pits it against Virtus Bologna. In the era of the playoffs it had never happened that the same final was repeated three times, but in the case of Olimpia there is a precedent. Between 1971 and 1973 he played the play-off three times with Varese to win the Scudetto. In essence, there were three finals for the title. In this series, he arrives on the wave of the 3-0 inflicted on Sassari in the semifinals, with the advantage of the field, guaranteed by direct clashes in the regular season and a general condition that appeared good. As in the regular season, Olimpia also put together the best defense in the playoffs in terms of points conceded, opponent evaluation, shooting percentages from three opponents. In the meantime, it has grown in attack, perhaps thanks to the stability of the balance: it has gone from 82.7 to 89.3 points per game; from 55.7 to 58.6% from two; 37.0 to 43.7% on threes of 29.4 attempts per game; turnovers were three fewer per game, assists three more. But the numbers of Virtus are just as impressive. He scored 99.0 points per contest in six playoff games, for starters. So two teams face each other who will test each other in an important way. Olimpia plays the first two games at home. It is useless to deny how important they are: in the last two seasons whoever wins Race 1 has also won the Scudetto. Speaking only of Olimpia: in the nine finals in which she won Race 1, she also prevailed eight times at the end and only twice, after giving up in the opening race, was she able to overturn the result. It is played as the best of seven games, the 14th series thus conceived in the history of Olimpia, which has played three in all of Game 7. Both teams have reduced turnover. Virtus always used the same 12 on the score sheet excluding Iffe Lundberg, Ismail Bako and Kyle Weems, who played in the previous two finals. Paul Biligha missed the last two games of the semi-final with a shoulder injury but will be available.
NOTE – Game 1 will be played on Friday 9 June at the Mediolanum Forum at 20:30. Race 2 will take place on Sunday 11 June at 18:00 again at the Mediolanum Forum. For both of these matches, the venue is completely sold out. The series will restart on Wednesday 14 and Friday 16 in Bologna.
THE REFEREES – Carmelo Paternico, Manuel Mazzoni, Mark Bartoli.
COACH ETTORE MESSINA – “I expect a very balanced series, in which it is impossible to predict the outcome. There is a rivalry between us and Virtus that I remember the one between the Lakers and the Celtics in the 80s which played a decisive role in relaunching the NBA, not only for the show on the pitch, but also for the visibility of the movement and the great quality of the players. The little things will decide the individual games starting with Game 1, which today has all our attention, therefore mainly defense and rebounds so as not to depend too much on shooting percentages. We face this final with humility, knowing that we have lost four times out of five against Bologna, but with the confidence generated by the quality of play expressed during the playoffs. By continuing to play with cohesion and courage, we will try to get the result we want for the owners, for ourselves and for the public who have always supported us, especially in these playoffs”.
VIRTUS BOLOGNA – In these playoffs, Coach Scariolo has always used very tall quintets between the wingers and physical players, with Hackett and Pajola as playmakers, Belinelli and Cordinier as guards but also together, Ojeleye as small forward with Abass as an alternative plus the wildcard Milos Teodosic off the bench . Ojeleye also played as a power forward. Daniel Hackett is scoring 11.5 points per game on 61.1% shooting from two and 38.1% shooting from three, but in the semifinal against Tortona he converted on 55.6% from the arc. Marco Belinelli was the team’s top scorer with 13.3 points per game on 48.7% three-point shooting on 6.5 attempts per contest. Isaia Cordinier averages 9.0 points, but shooting 64.3% from two, as well as 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Semi Ojeleye adds 10.3 points per game on 63.2% from two and 53.8% from three. To complete the outfield patrol: Milos Teodosic is producing 9.8 points and 4.5 assists on average with 41.9% on 5.2 attempts. Finally, Awudu Abass scores 7.3 points per game with 52.6%, Alessandro Pajola scores 2.5 points but averages 4.0 assists. Among the big men, Tornike Shengelia stands out in the semifinals he also distributed 4.7 assists per game also playing as a coach. In the playoffs, he has 11.3 points per game with 6.7 rebounds and 55.2% from two. The Georgian shoots very little from three (1.2 per game) but well (57.1%). Jordan Mickey has scored more than him so far, 12.7 points, 69.0% from two and 5.3 rebounds playing generally from center, as an alternative to Mom Jaiteh (9.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 64.5% from two), very dangerous in rebounding attack.
LA POWER CONNECTION – Giampaolo Ricci played for Virtus Bologna for two seasons winning the 2021 Scudetto as Captain. Daniel Hackett played in Milan for two years, winning the 2014 Scudetto. Awudu Abass played for two years in Milan, from 2017 to 2019, winning the 2018 Scudetto and the Super Cup twice. Ettore Messina has coached in the Virtus youth team since the 1983/84 season when he was also assistant to Alberto Bucci. He became head coach in the 1989/90 season and remained there until and including the 1992/93 season, only to return in 1997 and remain there again until 2002. In these two spells he won the EuroLeague twice (1998 and 2001), the Cup once of the Cups (1990), the Scudetto three times (1993, 1998 and 2001), the Italian Cup three times. The Virtus Bologna coach, Sergio Scariolo was Olimpia coach for two years, in the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons, with one championship final under his belt. Milos Teodosic played at CSKA Moscow coached by Ettore Messina. Among his teammates was Kyle Hines. Marco Belinelli was coached by Messina – as an assistant – at the San Antonio Spurs and – as head coach – in the national team. Billy Baron and Jordan Mickey played St. Petersburg together last season winning the VTB League. Iffe Lundberg, Toko Shengelia and Daniel Hackett played in Moscow with Johannes Voigtmann. Kyle Hines in Moscow also played with Hackett and together they won the 2019 EuroLeague.
GAME NOTES – Johannes Voigtmann’s progression this season. In the regular season he averaged 7.7 points, 61.4% from two, 43.1% from three and 4.4 rebounds per game. In the playoffs, he went on 10.9 points, 63.0% from two, 56.5% from three and 5.0 rebounds. In the semifinals alone, he averaged 15.0 points per game, shooting 71.4% from two, 61.5% from three and 5.7 rebounds. He had 17.7 average rating… In the playoffs, Shabazz Napier scored 14.3 points per game, team top scorer, with 5.0 assists, which were 5.7 in the semifinal with Sassari. Also in the playoffs, he had 1.9 steals per game vs. 1.3 turnovers and went inside the line 5.0 times per game, but 6.3 in the semifinals… Captain Nicolò Melli in the playoffs went up to 6.6 rebounds per game but was 7.3 at game in the three games of the semifinal, in which he shot 53.3% from two and 50.0% from three. In the playoffs, Melli averaged 9.7 points with +11.9 plus/minus average…. Shavon Shields had the team’s highest plus/minus in the playoffs, plus 15.9 per game average. In the semifinals, he scored 14.0 points per game on 54.5% from two. In the playoffs he shot 48.1% from three and 4.4 rebounds per game… In the semifinals, Gigi Datome scored 12.0 points per game on 66.7% from two and 47.1% from three and 11.7 average rating.