Anadolu Efes became the first name in this season’s EuroLeague championship game on Sunday after beating title holders CSKA Moscow 86-89 on Friday.
The encounter, a dominant three quarters for Efes and a fight to the death in the final rubber, proved to be an exciting game in Cologne. CSKA only lead for the first 25 second before Efes took over and it was the EuroLeague MVP Vasiljie Micic who exploded for 25 points and six assists before fouling out in the final quarter.
The Serbian guard, who managed 36 minutes before getting five fouls, sending him to the bench with 2.54 to go, said it was tough ending the night like this.
“I don’t want it to sound like an excuse, but I was very tired and ended up making a lot of mistakes,” Micic explained post-game.
“But I’m happy for us, especially Roddy (Beaubois) and Shane (Larkin) because we wanted to win and here we are.”
CSKA had been down by 21 at one instance in the game but managed to reduce that deficit to just a point late with a 31-point fourth quarter, before Efes secured the win from the line with two made free-throws and the latter side’s coach Ergin Ataman lamented this issue which has haunted his side throughout the season’s games.
“We played perfect basketball for three quarters but made a lot of mistakes in the fourth,” Ataman said.
“But credit to (Will) Clyburn. We played good defence in the first three quarters but him and (Daniel) Hackett managed to find a way through. I hope we don’t do the same on Sunday.”
CSKA guard Clyburn lead the game in scoring with 26 points, with Hackett adding 17 and Iffe Lundberg scoring 15 before also getting fouled out in the fourth quarter.
The Turkish side were in fine form until the beginning of the final quarter but when it seemed to be another straightforward win, CSKA duo Clyburn and Hackett put on a show to bring the 21-point deficit to just eight with 4.29 to go. This, added to impressive defense from the Russian side to stop Efes from increasing their lead was instrumental as Hackett took over at both ends of the court.
With Micic fouled out on a three-point play from Hackett with less than three minutes to go, CSKA stepped up the tempo even more and with only 7.8 seconds to go, the deficit became just one point.
However, in the final possession of the game, Shane Larkin had the last laugh, getting the last of his 11 points from the line after getting fouled on the shot in a final fast break.
Efes face the winners of the second final four game on Friday between Barcelona and Olimpia Milano.