The EuroLeague championship game for the 2017-18 season is set with eyes focusing on a potential NBA Draft pick and also a favourite son who could land a tenth EuroLeague title.
Real Madrid and Fenerbahce have fought in the semi-finals in 2015 and again last year but have never featured in a EuroLeague final. For Real, it’s a chance for Luka Doncic to write his name in European folklore and for Fenerbahce, it’s about becoming the third team in the EuroLeague-era to retain the championship.
Zalgiris and CSKA Moscow will fight for third spot this season. For the former, they can end their best ever season season on a high and work to bettering it next season. For the latter, they return to the third-placed game for the fifth time in six years.
Here are six takeaways from the semi-finals in Belgrade.
1 – FENERBAHCE COMPLETE HAT-TRICK
By beating Zalgiris in the first semi-final, Fenerbahce have made it three championship game appearances in a row come Sunday. They have throughly deserved the accolade this year as they had too much firepower for the stubborn Kaunas outfit, who were making their first Final Four showing since 1999.
The champions gave us some highlights that will be embedded in Final Four history such as Jan Vesely’s dunk of the season contender, where he climbed all over Brandon Davis to hammer home but the most important highlight for them is yet to be witnessed. Can Fenerbahce make it reality on Sunday night?
2 – BOBBY DIXON x CLUTCH
In a physical and low scoring affair between Zalgiris and Fenerbahce, it seemed that the key to victory was going to be a standout player in the fourth quarter.
Enter Bobby Dixon (Ali Muhammed).
Dixon scored 10 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter to give Fenerbahce the lift it needed to victory. In a game where defence ruled, every shot attempt was contested and the lanes were blocked near to all times, it needed someone to step up when it mattered. Dixon was that someone.
3 – ONE STEP CLOSER TO OBRADOVIC’S MOMENT
Winning championships is nothing new to Fenerbahce coach Zeljko Obradovic but if his side retains the EuroLeague crown on Sunday night, not only does it present him with an unprecedented tenth title but he will win it in his home country.
While Obradovic has slightly downplayed the fact that he is coaching a team in his home country, chances are that the joy he could experience on Sunday if Fenerbahce beat Real Madrid will be unlike any of his previous nine.
4 – LUKA DONCIC
With James Jones, VP of the Phoenix Suns in attendence plus scouts from most NBA sides, it was up to Luka Doncic to prove his true worth on the big stage. Sure, he’s done it at Eurobasket, where he led Slovenia to a maiden championship, but this was a different stage. One where he actually failed to produce the magic Euro ball fans have been used to seeing over the last few years.
Doncic went 0/6 and was scoreless when Real lost to Fenerbahce in last year’s EuroLeague semi-final and followed that up by scoring six points in the third-place loss against CSKA with all his points coming from the free throw line.
One year on and Doncic shined in Friday’s win over CSKA in the semi-final. He, along with Sergio Llull led Real with 16 points, adding seven rebounds and two assists. But it wasn’t just what he did on the stats that stood out. Doncic was in a class of his own. Every play that went through Doncic, he looked assured and in control. He shot the ball with confidence and looks ready for the NBA, if he decides to head there, that is.
5 – DECIMA
Real Madrid’s 92-83 win over CSKA Moscow on Friday puts them one step closer to a landmark tenth EuroLeague title.
Like their football equivalents, Real Madrid have the chance to further solidify their status as European basketball’s most successful side.
6 – UNSUCCESSFUL TENENTS
CSKA Moscow has qualified to the Final Four for seven consecutive seasons and 15 out of the last 16 years, with 2011 being that sole year where they missed out. So it’s fair to say that they have become unofficial tenents of the Final Four.
But their success rate in the Final Four continues to suffer as they will contend for third place for the fifth time in six years. The 2016 victory in Berlin now seems like a lifetime away for the Muscovites.