Sasha Vezenkov shines, but Olympiacos falls short in EuroLeague Final

May 21, 2023, 12:10 PM | Updated: 12:17 pm

KAUNAS, LITHUANIA - MAY 21: Sasha Vezenkov, #14 of Olympiacos Piraeus in action during Turkish Airl...

(Photo by David Grau/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

(Photo by David Grau/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

Back in April, Sasha Vezenkov made it clear that he had one goal on his mind before he could start thinking about a potential move to the NBA:

Win the EuroLeague championship.

The EuroLeague MVP came within one possession of achieving that goal on Sunday, but Real Madrid’s late-game heroics handed Olympiacos a crushing 79-78 loss at Zalgirio Arena in Kaunas, Lithuania.

Vezenkov left it all on the floor during a 29-point performance as the forward led all scorers while shooting 11-of-21 from the field, grabbing nine rebounds, and dishing out four assists over 39 minutes.

Olympiacos set the tone early as former NBA guard Isaiah Canaan’s nine first-quarter points fueled a 24-12 run. Vezenkov added nine points of his own in the opening period, but Real Madrid quickly bounced back to make things interesting near the halftime break.

Vezenkov led all scorers with 15 points on six-of-10 shooting from the field during the first half while doing most of his work in and around the paint. Although the talented forward is known to be a threat on the perimeter, he took what the Real Madrid defense gave him while playing the entirety of the first half.

Olympiacos’ double-digit lead was erased before the break as Real Madrid evened the score at 45-45 to set the stage for a nail-biting finish at Zalgirio Arena.

After a back-and-forth third quarter, Vezenkov took over to start the fourth, scoring eight points during the opening two minutes of the period to give Olympiacos some breathing room in the form of a 68-61 lead.

While Vezenkov and Olympiacos appeared to be on their way to a championship, Real Madrid punched back late and held their opponent scoreless for the final two minutes of regulation.

Real Madrid’s comeback was completed on an incredible game-winning shot from Sergio Llull, who put Olympiacos in a 79-78 hole with 3.1 seconds remaining. Out of the timeout, Olympiacos was unable to find Vezenkov as a final attempt from Kostas Sloukas would rim out, giving Real Madrid the win.

Now that the EuroLeague Championship is in the rear-view, all eyes will shift to Vezenkov as the EuroLeague’s top player will enter the most important offseason of his career.

Over 37 appearances in the EuroLeague this season, Vezenkov averaged 17.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 65 percent on two-point field goals and 39 percent from beyond the three-point arc en route to securing the EuroLeague MVP award.

The Kings hold the 27-year-old’s NBA rights thanks to a draft day deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers last June, and there have been multiple reports that Vezenkov is inching closer to making a commitment to Sacramento that would bring the forward over for the 2023-24 season.

During an interview with Cattles & Ramie on Friday, Eurohoops editor and reporter Antonis Stroggylakis shared that he believed Vezenkov will join the Kings if Olympiacos took home the EuroLeague title.

For Vezenkov, the question is simple: Go to the NBA, or stay in Greece?

Will Olympiacos’ loss in the EuroLeague final impact Vezenkov’s decision to join the Kings this summer?

We are very close to a conclusion in this year-long saga.

Sacramento Kings Offseason Schedule

  • Thursday, June 22– 2023 NBA Draft
  • Friday, June 30– Free Agent negotiating period begins
  • Thursday, July 6– Free Agents can begin signing deals
  • Friday, July 7–Monday, July 17– NBA Summer League in Las Vegas
  • August TBD– 2023-24 NBA regular season schedule release
  • September TBD– Sacramento Kings training camp begins

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