Fenerbahçe, Anadolu Efes face off for Euroleague final
The 2019 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four will get underway with city rivals Fenerbahçe Beko and Anadolu Efes tipping off their semifinal showdown at Fernando Buesa Arena in Spain’s Vitoria-Gasteiz on May 17.
Anadolu Efes, under coach Ergin Ataman, has produced a series of explosive performances throughout the season, scoring 85.4 points per game behind dazzling backcourt play from Vasilije Micic, Shane Larkin, Rodrigue Beaubois and Kruno Simon, who delivered a combined average of more than 40 points per game.
“I felt I am more experienced this season” Micic told Anadolu Agency.
“We are not as experienced as our rivals Fenerbahçe Beko, CSKA Moskova and Real Madrid,” he admitted.
“Starting from the first training session, we have not thought about the season end but always the next game. We proceeded step by step and reached this point.”
Still, Anadolu Efes will take on a task challenge against Fenerbahçe, which bolstered Zeljko Obradovic’s reputation for defensive excellence by allowing just 74.6 points per game – fewer than any other team – during the regular season.
Fenerbahçe suffers from injuries, with Joffrey Lauvergne and Gigi Datome definitely out while Nikola Kalinic and Jan Vesely were doubtful as of May 16.
“Obradovic’s backcourt leader Kostas Sloukas will be hoping to extend his remarkable semifinals record after going 6-0 in the last seven years,” the Euroleague said on its official website.
“Then he will try to become the only active player with four Euroleague titles. That feat can also be matched by his former Olympiacos teammate Kyle Hines, while Hines or Sloukas could become just the third player to win the competition multiple times with two different teams – only Dino Meneghin [Varese, Milan] and Fausto Bargna [Cantu, Milan] have done that in the past,” it said.
Anadolu Efes and Fenerbahçe won three games each in the last six games, including domestic competitions.
The other semifinal will present a familiar sight as defending champion Real Madrid squares off with CSKA Moscow for the third consecutive Final Four.
CSKA won the third place game in Istanbul a couple of years ago before Real prevailed in last season’s semifinal. This season’s meetings were both taken by CSKA, which gained an 88-93 victory in Madrid in November, 2018 and another narrow win, 82-78, in Round 22 in Moscow.
“Defeating a top-quality team like Real three times in a row is no easy mission, but CSKA’s quest will be helped by one of the hottest performers of the playoffs,” the Euroleague said.
“Nando De Colo was sensational in the series against Kirolbet Baskonia, netting 28 and 27 points in the decisive road wins in games 3 and 4, so he’ll certainly feel comfortable returning to Fernan-do Buesa Arena,” it said.
Real hopes the threat posed by De Colo can be matched by its own superstar leader, Sergio Llull. The 2017 Euroleague MVP was unable to appear in the playoffs against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens due to injury, before returning for four Spanish League games in the build-up to the big event. But Llull wasn’t at his best in those games, shooting 3-of-18 from three-point range, and the question of whether he can recover his top form could be crucial.