Anadolu Efes makes history with back-to-back Euroleague titles
The Turkish Airlines Euroleague has its first back-to-back champion in nine years and just the fourth of the Final Four era after a showdown for the trophy on Saturday in Belgrade, Serbia, that did perfect justice to the spectacular season that came before it.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul made history by defending its crown from last season with a defensive-minded 57-58 victory over Real Madrid, the team with the most titles in competition history, 10. Efes becomes the first back-to-back Euroleague champion since Olympiacos Piraeus in 2012 and 2013. The only other repeat winners since 1988 when the modern Final Four era began are Maccabi Tel Aviv (2004 and 2005) and Jugoplastika Split (1989, 1990, 1991).
Walter Tavares had a monster first quarter to get Real off on the right foot, but it soon settled into a cat-and-mouse battle with 10 lead changes and five ties going into the last 3 minutes, as his counterpart, Tibor Pleiss, scored 17 second-half points.
A tip-in by Pleiss going into the final minute was good for a 55-58 lead as Real managed only a layup by Sergio Llull thereafter.
Micic led Efes with 23 points, Pleiss added 19 and Shane Larkin 10. The rest of the Efes players had six points between them. Real’s sole double-digit scorer was Tavares, who had 12 of his 14 points in the first quarter. Llull came next with nine points.
Anadolu Efes coach Ergin Ataman was delighted after the game.
“I’m sorry for Real Madrid, they made a great game, but we knew how to manage the game, especially the last minutes because I have in the team star players who know how to play in that kind of situation,” he said.
“In the finals, strategy, especially offensive strategy, is not working well, you see that in all games in the Final Four. But great players can resolve situations. In the last quarter, all the team made a great defense, we really solved the problems for the offensive rebounds. We had a big problem until the third quarter with offensive rebounds, we gave away a lot of points, and then we found a way to win the game.”
Final Four MVP Vasilije Micic said that it was a brilliant team performance that brought the trophy.
“This [MVP award] feels amazing. It will stay forever with me, it will be marked on my heart until I play basketball and afterwards,” he said.
“Nothing is possible without my teammates, four amazing years together, two titles. I am honestly very speechless because four years ago I played here and I won third place and I was short. But this time we won the title, and I want to congratulate my teammates, and congrats to Real Madrid for an amazing game.”
Efes forward Adrien Moerman acknowledged the support of the fans.
“Unbelievable! I can’t describe it right now because this is a great moment,” he said on the court after the match.
“This is great for Turkish basketball. When we made some stops, the fans were pushing us. But they didn’t just push us in the Final Four, they also did it in the playoffs and the regular season. This is for them,” he added.