By Hocine LOUKKAF on 5/21/2018
While some of the best prospects were in Chicago trying to impress NBA scouts, the four best European teams were in Belgrade fighting for the Euroleague title.
In the first semi, Cinderella team of Zalgiris Kaunas had a tough matchup against last year’s winner FeneRbahce Istanbul. Despite dominating the boards 37 to 22 and getting more free throws (19/27 vs 7/11), the Lithuanians couldn’t find a way to stop the Turkish armada who shot 57% from two and 39% from three. Forward LuiGi Datome was particularly good with 16pts on 7/9 FG, including 2/2 from three. It was above all Bobby Dixon (known as Muhammed Ali) who was hot with 19pts in 12min. With only 2/10 from three and 20 turnovers for only 13as, Zalgiris couldn’t get further in what has been an incredible year for them. Davies (12pts 11rbds) and Pangos (14pts 4as but 5tos) were the best scorers for Kaunas.
In the second semi between CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid, CSKA couldn’t find a way to score inside with a poor 40% inside the 3pt line including 3/15 combined for De Colo and Clyburn. After a good start from Moscow thanks to Cory Higgins (15pts 3as), Madrid used the second quarter to come back with Llull (16pts 5as) and Carroll (9pts 3as) leading the way. Some important baskets from Ayon (12pts 11rbds) and the overall talent of Doncic (16pts 7rbds 2as) and Thompkins (12pts 6rbds) helped Real keep their advantage through the third or fourth quarter. Clyburn (16pts 7rbds) did his best so that CSKA stays in the game while De Colo woke up too late with two 3 pointers in the last two minutes, but that would not be enough to beat Real Madrid.
In the title game between last year’s winner and Real Madrid, Fenerbahce started well with Kalinic and Duverioglu (8pts on 4/4 FG in the 1st quarter) striking in the paint, which allowed their team to lead throughout the first quarter. Real took control at the end of the first and in the second, it was the exact opposite with Istanbul coming back with 11pts by Melli in the first six minutes (28pts 6rbds) then Sloukas with 5pts during the last two minutes to go to the locker room with a 40-38 advantage. In the third quarter, after two FT from Causeur (17pts 2as) to tie at 40, Real wouldn’t give up the lead with the Frenchman scoring 12pts to go with 2as in the quarter. In the last period, Madrid slowly reach a 10pt lead but after 4 FTs from Wannamaker (14pts 5as), that lead was cut to 5pts, then 3 after a three pointer from Dixon. Causeur was sent to the FT line where he missed both but fortunately was saved by Thompkins (10pts 5rbds) who took the offensive rebound and scored (83-78). Fenerbahce sent once again Causeur to the FT line after a basket from Melli (83-80), but that time, Causeur was able to keep his cool, scored both FTs and block Sloukas last attempt. With this victory, Real Madrid has won its tenth European Champions title, la Decima.
Final Four MVP : Luka Doncic
We were so used to Doncic having special moments during the season that this MVP title may seem undeserved. Yet, with averages of 15.5pts 5rbds and 3as, despite low FG%, it’s hard to argue about Doncic’ role in Madrid’s victory. He has proved that even in bad days, he was present in every aspect of the game, from creating for his teammates to rebounding. Do we have to mention that the kid, at age19, also won 2017 Eurobasket and Euroleague regular season MVP, a feat that has never been achieved in recent years and should be his last in Europe before a successful NBA career.
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