17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
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Meet the Final Four contenders: Peristeri bwin

BELGRADE (Serbia) - Don't remember everything that happened en route to the Belgrade Final Four? Don't worry, we got you covered!

BCL columnists Igor Curkovic and Diccon Lloyd-Smeath have watched every second of the competition since the start of the season and they love nothing more than talking about it, so we asked them to paint a portrait of all Final Four contenders. Up next, the third team to punch their ticket to the Final Four, Peristeri bwin.


Igor: The prominence of Greek basketball is well known, so we shouldn't be surprised there is a Greek club at the Final Four, and yet seeing Peristeri bwin here did not seem like a certainty at any point this season. How did they get to Belgrade?

Diccon: It’s safe to say it didn’t look like a certainty at the start of the Regular Season. Group A couldn’t have started much worse for head coach Vasilis Spanoulis and his team as they lost three of their first four games, to Le Mans Sarthe Basket (both home and on the road) and to Unicaja in Malaga.

Peristeri's only success in that stretch was an 87-70 win over Falco Szombathely at home. The Greek club also claimed a 90-87 road win over Falco immediately after, but their fortunes only really changed when the Spanish giants, Unicaja, arrived at the Andreas Papandreou arena on Gameday 6. Peristeri pulled off the unexpected, winning 76-73 behind an impressive 22-point, 11-rebound double-double by Trevor Thompson and a 16-point haul from Jermaine Love.

Rytas Vilnius awaited Peristeri in the Play-Ins in what looked from the outset like a tough challenge. In reality, Spanoulis and his team made light work of their first knockout games in the BCL this season. A dominant 110-92 road win was followed by an 83-80 home win and they rolled on into the Round of 16. Ragland stamped his authority with back-to-back double-doubles, of 25 points and 15 assists in Game 1 and of 17 points with 10 assists in the second game.

Just as it had happened in the Regular Season, Peristeri got off to a slow start also in the Round of 16, losing the first three games to Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem, Lenovo Tenerife, and Pinar Karsiyaka. At that point, a lesser team would have accepted their fate and bowed out gracefully in the toughest group in the Round of 16.

Not this team, though. Three wins on the bounce saw Joe Ragland earn monthly MVP honors for March and Spanoulis was also proclaimed as the Coach of the Month to boot. Perhaps the most impressive of the three wins was the 76-61 success over Jerusalem on the road, with the Ragland-Thompson one-two punch again providing a double-double each; 16 points and 10 assists for Ragland, 10 points and 11 rebounds for Thompson.

The Quarter-Final series against the reigning champions, Telekom Baskets Bonn, required all three games for Peristeri to claim a historical ticket to the Final Four. The German side looked strong as they took Game 1 at home but a dominant 90-62 Peristeri win in Greece turned the tide and was followed by an equally impressive 89-77 win in Bonn in Game 3 to decide the series.

Is it fair to say that their biggest star is actually their coach? Vasilis Spanoulis is one of the biggest names in the history of basketball, and it seems like his coaching career is off to a brilliant start. Could we talk about coaching fingerprints already?

Diccon: We absolutely can talk about a Spanoulis coaching fingerprint. From the way this team has been man-managed to wring out every last drop of effort, to the way his three-guard lineup with Ragland, Elijah Mitrou-Long, and Jermaine Love combined for 52 points to win Game 3 against Bonn, his fingerprints have been all over Peristeri’s season to date.

This team's standout statistic is their blazing-hot offensive rating. They score at a rate of 114 points per 100 possessions, which ranks sixth in the BCL this season, but is quite impressive within the context of their season’s journey. That offense needed to be off the charts for them to win five of six games since the start of March against the likes of Tenerife, Bonn, Jerusalem and Karsiyaka.

Igor: Back in 2018, AEK won the whole thing. They reached one more Final in 2020, as the only Greek team ever in the Final Four until Peristeri showed up this season. What do Spanoulis’s men need to do to join AEK on the list of BCL winners?

Diccon: The path ahead leads to a rematch with Tenerife, with whom they have already split a pair of games. The Canarians' experience heading into their fifth Final Four in eight years might give them an advantage, but when Peristeri shoot the ball well they are a match for anyone, including the other Spanish club they also split two games with this year, Unicaja.

In their losses, Peristeri shot 34.6 percent from the field, whereas in the games they won, that average jumped to 49.9 percent. The same is true for their long-range shooting. In victories they shot 40 percent from deep, compared with 33.3 percent in the games they lost. If Peristeri shoot the ball well, they can beat any team.

Igor: Every team has a weak spot. What’s the Greek team's weakest link and how do they deal with it?

Diccon: They need physicality and intensity on defense. Offense alone won’t be enough in Belgrade. Spanoulis loves to use small-ball lineups and for those - or in fact for any of their lineups - to work, they need to be up for the battle on the defensive end. Players will need to scrap for every rebound and fight to win matchups against bigger opponents.


Igor: What's your favorite thing about Peristeri's season? Could be a play, a player, a playcaller, a playlist, a play on words...

Diccon: It has to be Joe Ragland. He not only holds the all-time record for double-doubles in the BCL, with 16, but he is also in four of the top five assist partnerships this season. That means he has dished 49 assists to Trevor Thompson alone, and those assists resulted in 99 of Thompson’s 194 total points.

All of which make that the most productive assist partnership in the BCL this season. It’s a similar story with Ragland and Kenny Williams, Nemanja Dangubic, and Leonidas Kaselakis. Nobody else has made their team tick this season like Ragland has.