Lokomotiv Kuban and Darussafaka Istanbul square off in the Eurocup Finals, with the winner claiming the title and securing their place in the Euroleague next season.
The Russians enter the best-of-three series as the favourites, thanks to their impressive performances this season. Lokomotiv have been undefeated so far (20-0), whereas Darussafaka have lost only three times in the season (17-3).
With Eurocup Coach of the Year, Sasa Obradovic, on the bench, the Russians are ready to win the title for the second time in their history (2013) and return to the Euroleague after a two-year absence.
The Serbian coach has seen his players play excellent basketball and eliminate Gran Canaria and Reggio Emilia, respectively, en route to the Finals.
The Russians have been tremendous defensively, as they concede only 68.7 points per game, while they let their opponents make just 46.3% of their two-point attempts and 29% of their three-point shots.
Lokomotiv also is second in defensive rebounds (26.1 per game), third in total ones (36.5) and seventh in blocks (2.7).
At the same time, they are very productive offensively, averaging 82.7 points per game, 55.3% in two-pointers and 37.6% in three-pointers.
Consequently, the squad will do its best to make history by claiming the title unbeaten or finish the season with the best record in the history of competition.
Although the roster is deep and talented, Dmitry Kulagin and Ryan Broekhoff have been game changers so far, yet the latter will miss the series, due to an injury.
For his part, Kulagin has been one of the key players this season, having been selected in the All-Eurocup Second Team.
With 11 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, he was extraordinary against Gran Canaria in the quarter-finals, where he averaged 26 points (along with a club-record 32 points in Game 2) and led his team to the semi-finals.
Moreover, Broekhoff, who is considered a three-point specialist, has been one of the Russian side’s leaders, as he plays very well on both ends of the floor.
The Aussie forward is Lokomotiv’s top scorer (12.3 points per game) and second in rebounding (5.5 per game), while his excellent shooting percentage (50.6% in three-pointers and 66.7% in two-pointers) has made him a reference point in coach Obradovic’s tactics.
In his fourth Eurocup season, Broekhoff has become one of the best players in the league and has been selected in All-Eurocup First Team for the first time in his career, so his absence will negatively affect the club’s playing style.
Coach Obradovic will expect from Joe Ragland (11.4 ppg and 4.1 apg) and Frank Elegar (10.3 ppg and 6.4 rpg, 71.4% in two-pointers) to step up and make the difference, covering Broekhoff’s void, as defensive specialist, Mardy Collins, will have a central role in the squad’s defensive tactics.
On the other hand, Darussafaka will do their best to win their first-ever European title and return to the Euroleague, following an one-year absence.
Coach David Blatt has made an excellent job and the Turks are ready to beat the Russians and become champions.
Darussafaka are very tough defensively, conceding just 71.2 points per game and forcing their opponents to shoot the ball very badly (48.5% in two-pointers, 30.5% in three-pointers).
Eurocup MVP, Scottie Wilbekin has been unstoppable this season, with 18.9 points, 20.7 in performance index rating, 5.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
Furthermore, he was on fire in the semi-finals against Bayern Munich, setting a new Eurocup record by scoring 41 points, on 10/15 from the three-point range, in Game 2 against the Germans.
In addition, Jajuan Johnson (14.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Michael Eric (8.3 points and six boards per game) and Howard Sant-Roos (8.7 points and four assists per game) will have a key role in the tactics, whereas James Bell, just like Ryan Broekhoff, will miss the series, due to an injury.
The Turkish club is very effective offensively, with 79.5 points per game, even though they don’t dish so many assists (15.8), in comparison with Lokomotiv Kuban, which dishes 18.8 per game.
Darussafaka should improve their two-point (51.2%) and three-point (33.3%) percentage in order to improve their chances to put an end to Lokomotiv’s undefeated streak and lift the title.
Last but not least, the assist/turnover ratio will be a key factor in the clubs’ effort to win the title, so both teams should control the tempo of the match, make fewer turnovers and have a better ball movement, if they want to have the upper hand in the series.
Overall, Eurocup Finals are expected to be exciting, as both Lokomotiv Kuban and Darussafaka are very competitive and play very well on both ends of the floor.
Certainly, Game 1 (Tuesday, April 10th, 19:00 CET) will be of utmost importance for both teams, as the winner will be just one victory away from becoming the new Eurocup champion.