Another Euroleague season came to an end on Sunday night, with Fenerbahce and Zeljko Obradovic triumphing over Olympiacos Piraeus in the Championship Game and winning the title for the first time in their history and in front of more than 10.000 of their supporters at the sold-out “Sinan Erdem Dome”.
What exactly did we see, though, from the four clubs in the 2017 Final Four?
The new Euroleague champions were simply unstoppable in both the semi-final and the Final and certainly deserved the title.
Coach Obradovic, who claimed the trophy for a ninth time in his legendary career, had prepared his players extremely well for these two matches, both mentally and physically.
Against Real Madrid and Olympiacos, the squad’s players were in the best shape of the season and simply dominated their opponents on both ends of the floor.
Offensively, we saw Fenerbahce play at very high standards and execute very well, scoring points both from inside the paint and beyond the arc.
Moreover, their energy levels were in such a high level that the players were able to run the floor very well and be unstoppable in transition.
Consequently, they earned double-digit advantages against both the “Whites” and the “Reds” and never looked back, claiming impressive victories that helped them make history.
What we also witness was Ekpe Udoh’s explosion. Fenerbahce’s big man decimated his opponents and was named the 2017 Euroleague Final Four MVP.
Udoh was tremendous both defensively and offensively, doing almost everything on the floor, and his presence helped his team-mates play more aggressive defence.
More specifically, Fenerbahce’s center had 10 points, nine rebounds, four assists and five blocks and 29 in the ranking system in the Final, destroying every game plan that Olympiacos’ coach, Giannis Sfairopoulos, used to stop him.
That said, it’s more than certain that Fenerbahce will have to do their best to extend his contract, as many NBA teams will try to sign him.
Apart from the team’s center, though, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nikola Kalinic were tremendous as well, although every member of the roster played very well in both matches.
The Greek club overcame the odds for another season and played in the Championship Game for the fifth time since 2010.
Although they were forced to play without Matt Lojeski and Daniel Hackett, who both had a key role in the side’s tactics, Sfairopoulos’ players didn’t give up and make another come-back against CSKA Moscow, beating the Russians for a fourth straight time in Final Fours (2012, 2013, 2015, 2017).
With Vassilis Spanoulis being tremendous in the fourth quarter of the semi-final against the “Bear” and Giorgos Printezis and Kostas Paanikolaou playing very well on both ends of the floor, the “Reds” turned things around twice during the game and again shocked the basketball world.
Sfairopoulos and his players had a very effective game plan defensively and conceded 78 points against one of the league’s best offensive lines (CSKA averaged almost 90 points per game during the regular season).
Although Milos Teodosic was unstoppable and Nando De Colo scored in double digits again, the Greek team found the way to remain competitive during the whole game and earn the victory, thanks to an impressive fourth-quarter performance.
In the Championship Game, though, things quickly went out of control for Olympiacos, as their game plan to let many open three-pointers (mainly by Kalinic, Bogdanovic, Bobby Dixon and Luigi Datome) in order to stop Udoh’s and Jan Vesely’s dominance inside the paint didn’t work out, with Fenerbahce hitting 13 three-pointers.
Furthermore, when the “Reds” cut the deficit to four and five points, respectively, in the third quarter (44-40, 49-44), they ran out of energy and an 11-4 run by Fenerbahce sealed the deal for the Turks, as the Greek team couldn’t make another come-back.
Overall, though, Olympiacos had another successful season and if they don’t make many changes to their roster during the summer, then they will again be the favourites to qualify to the 2018 Final Four, which will take place in Belgrade.
Losing to the same opponent for a fourth straight time in Final Fours certainly is very tough for every club.
Although the Russians had the chance to beat the “Reds” and qualify to the Final to defend their title, Dimitris Itoudis’ players came up short again.
Not only did they lose a double-digit lead twice during the game, but also let Olympiacos score crucial points and claim another big victory, playing mediocre defensively.
Even though coach Itoudis saw his game plan work perfectly for almost 30 minutes, his players didn’t seal the deal and let the “Reds” make another come-back and advance to the Final.
As the Russians have spent so much money to create a very tough team, their elimination in the semi-final certainly was a disappointment, considering the way it happened.
However, their Final Four presence wasn’t a failure, as they played very well against Real Madrid and beat the Spaniards (70-94) to finish third.
Yet, things are going to be interesting for the “Bear” during the summer, as Teodosic will probably leave the team to join the Denver Nuggets, while, and according to Israeli media, David Blatt is a candidate to replace Itoudis on the squad’s bench.
One way or another, the bottom line is that CSKA Moscow couldn’t get the job done and win the title for a second straight time.
I think that the “Whites” were the biggest disappointment of the 2017 Final Four, due to their presence in both the semi-final and the third-place game.
Apart from an 11-0 run they made in the second quarter of their match against Fenerbahce on Friday night to cut the Turks’ deficit to two points (26-24), the Madrid squad always was a step behind their opponents, making mediocre performances against both the Turks and CSKA Moscow.
Apart from Euroleague’s MVP, Sergio Llull, and Jaycee Carroll, no other member of the roster was competitive against Fenerbahce and none of coach Pablo Laso’s game plans work effectively.
To make matters worse, the Spaniards made their worst performance of the season in the third-place game, being decimated by the “Bear”, and their presence in the Final Four came to a painful end, as they disappointed their fans that travelled to Istanbul to support their favourite team.
Despite the fourth place in the Final Four, and thanks to their very successful presence in the regular season, no major changes are expected to the club’s roster, with Real Madrid entering the 2017/18 season as one of the favourites to once again go all the way to the end.
Overall, the 2017 Final Four was a spectacular event at the sold-out “Sinan Erdem Dome”, with great matches taking place, and it also was the first time I managed to cover the event as a reporter.
That said, I want to thank TalkBasket.net for giving me that opportunity and hope I will be able to cover it again next year in Belgrade.