Anadolu Efes eyes Euroleague title at Final Four
The lineup for the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four features the teams that played in the championship game at the last Final Four, as well as two teams returning to continental basketball’s brightest stage after a lengthy layoff.
The other semifinal at Lanxess Arena on May 28 will pit Barcelona against Armani Exchange Milan.
Anadolu Efes is looking for its first European trophy in 25 years after becoming the first Turkish club in any sport to win a pan-European competition, the Korac Cup, in 1996.
The last Euroleague championship game will be replayed in this season’s semifinal game between Efes and CSKA.
While Efes brings back the same core of players from the 2019 championship game, led by All-Euroleague guards Vasilije Micic and Shane Larkin, CSKA has a different look with Toko Shengelia and Iffe Lundberg having joined, though 2019 Final Four MVP Will Clyburn remains.
A high-scoring affair could be imagined between these two teams, which were the top two scoring teams in the league this season, with CSKA topping the charts with 84.4 points per game and Efes averaging 84.1.
Remarkably, they were also among the best at taking care of the ball with Efes’s 11.3 turnovers per game the second-fewest in the competition and CSKA’s 12.3 ranked third-fewest.
Efes, which will play its fourth Final Four, needed the maximum five playoff games to squeeze by Real Madrid in the playoffs, after dominating Los Blancos by a combined 50 points in Games 1 and 2, it blew late leads in Games 3 and 4, but held steady to win the decisive contest at home.
CSKA, which will play at its record 20th Final Four, was the only team to sweep its playoff series. It won all three games against Fenerbahçe Beko by double-digit margins and will arrive in Cologne on a nine-game winning streak that dates back to mid-March
Efes coach Ergin Ataman, who signed a two-year contract extension with the Istanbul club earlier this month, is fired up.
“The Final Four will be very competitive but we want to win. We will win it,” the successful coach told the Euroleague’s official website.
For Ataman, it is not just about winning, but doing it in style, which had led Efes to often play what he considers “perfect basketball,” and expects a tough game.
“We know it will be a very difficult game, a very tough game,” he said. “They have big experience in this event.”
Enjoying his third stint with Efes, Ataman believes that the time has come for the European club basketball’s biggest trophy.
“I think that this club deserves to take a title now,” he said. “It is title time. I hope I will have a chance to give them this title this year. It would be, for me, the best moment in my basketball life.”