2018 Euroleague Final Four: The aftermath

Euroleague Basketball
Euroleague Basketball

Another Euroleague season came to an end on Sunday night, with Real Madrid beating Fenerbahce in the Championship Game at the sold-out Stark Arena in Belgrade (85-80) to win the title for a record 10th time.

That said, what exactly did we see from the four clubs in the 2018 Final Four?

Real Madrid

The new Euroleague champions were the best team in the Final Four and certainly deserved the title.

With Luka Doncic as the leader and all the players being at their very best on both ends of the floor, the “Whites” edged both Fenerbahce and CSKA Moscow to claim their second title in the last four years.

Doncic was tremendous, averaging 15.5 points and 18 in the PIR system in the two matches, while he was named the MVP of both the regular season and the Final Four.

Gazzetta.gr

Photo: Gazzetta.gr

Coach Pablo Laso did a great job as well, as he created an excellent game plan that helped his team dominate their opponents and go all the way.

The Spanish coach prepared his players very well, both mentally and physically, with his tactics being very effective and enabling the squad to be unstoppable offensively.

The Spaniards averaged 88.5 points in their two matches and had a high percentage in two (50%) and three-pointers (44%), respectively.

The squad’s back-court line was very strong, with Fabien Causeur being the X-Factor for his team in the Championship Game, with 17 points, and Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez, Jaycee Carroll, Jeffery Taylor and Facundo Campazzo doing a great job on both ends of the floor.

At the same time, coach Laso saw his big men protect the rim and score crucial points on the other end of the floor.

Gustavo Ayon was dominant in the semi-final, with 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Trey Thompkins secured the victory in the Championship Game with his two-pointer, 19 seconds before the end of regulation.

Felipe Reyes, Walter Tavares and Anthony Randolph also played very well and offered decent solutions in both matches.

Overall, Real Madrid was the best team of the Final Four and deserved to win the title. There is no doubt about it.

Fenerbahce

Euroleague Basketball

Photo: Euroleague Basketball

The defending champions failed to win the title for a second straight season, but their presence certainly was a successful one.

Coach Zeljko Obradovic, who didn’t become Euroleague champion for a record 10th time, helped his players be at their very best in both matches.

Some wrong decisions and the lack of concentration in the final minutes of the Championship Game, though, prevented the club from becoming only the third team in Euroleague history to claim the title for a second year in a row.

Nicolo Melli made an outstanding performance in the Championship Game with 28 points, but it wasn’t enough to give his squad the victory, as only Brad Wanamaker scored in double figures for the Turks, with 14.

Bobby Dixon, who was the MVP against Zalgiris Kaunas on Friday, with 19 points in just 12 minutes, didn’t play so well against Real Madrid and scored only 7 points.

Kostas Sloukas, Jan Vesely and Luigi Datome played excellent in the semi-final, but couldn’t make the difference on Sunday, which significantly affected the team, both defensively and offensively.

Fenerbahce were very tough defensively against Zalgiris Kaunas on Friday, conceding just 67 points, but things were different on Sunday, as they allowed Real Madrid to score 85 points and win the game.

However, everybody in the roster did a great job and it’s certain the Turks will continue to be one of the best teams in Europe in the following years, after reaching the Championship Game for a third straight season.

Zalgiris Kaunas

Euroleague Basketball

Photo: Euroleague Basketball

The Lithuanians returned to the Final Four for the first time since winning title in 1999 and ended the season in the best way possible, finishing third.

Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius created a great team that was playing excellent basketball on both ends of the floor, but Zalgiris failed to beat Fenerbahce and advance to the Final.

Despite being nervous from the beginning and missing many shots, the Lithuanians came back from double-digit deficits and tried to turn things around and steal the victory.

Yet, some wrong decisions in the final minutes of regulation let Fenerbahce emerge victorious.

Zalgiris were highly motivated in the third-place game, though, and dominated CSKA Moscow for three quarters to earn the 77-79 victory and finish third.

Kevin Pangos was the leader for his team in both matches, while captain Paulius Jankunas played very well in the third-place game, scoring 15 points.

Brandon Davies was very productive in the semi final, with 12 points and 11 rebounds, but couldn’t lead his squad to the Championship Game.

Vasilije Micic and Edgaras Ulanovas made the difference for their team against CSKA, with 15 and 14 points, respectively, but both played mediocre in the semi-final.

Certainly, Zalgiris Kaunas could have played better in the semi-final, but their lack of experience and concentration in the last part of the fourth quarter, along with their poor defence over Dixon, were the keys that let Fenerbahce win the game.

However, they played excellent all season long and their presence in the Final Four was very successful. Now, their target is to become one of the top Euroleague clubs in the following years.

CSKA Moscow

Sport24.gr

Photo: Sport24.gr

The Russians made two disappointing performances and failed to go all the way for a second straight year.

Although they were the favourites to win the title, they didn’t prove that on the floor and lost both matches to finish fourth, playing badly, especially defensively.

The Muscovites saw Real Madrid score 72 points in three quarters and 92 overall, eliminating them from the Final.

On Sunday, CSKA went on a 29-10 run in the fourth quarter, came back from a 21-point deficit (48-69), but ran out of time and were defeated by Zalgiris in the third-place game (77-79).

Most players weren’t at their very best and only Cory Higgins played well in both matches, averaging 15 points.

Kyle Hines was tremendous in the semi-final with 16 points and nine rebounds, with Nando De Colo adding 20.

The Russians, though, played poor defence in the most important game of the season and were defeated by the new Euroleague champions (83-92).

Sergio Rodriguez played very badly in both matches, while coach Dimitris Itoudis will reportedly leave the squad after the end of the season, although he led the club to four straight Final Four appearances (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018) and one title in 2016.

CSKA weren’t mentally ready for these matches and now need to fix their mistakes and come back stronger to win the title in 2019.

Euroleague Basketball

Photo: Euroleague Basketball

Overall, the 2018 Final Four was a spectacular event at the sold-out Stark Arena in Belgrade, with great matches taking place, while it was the second straight time I covered the event as a reporter.

That said, I want to thank TalkBasket.net for giving me that opportunity for a second year in a row and hope I will be able to cover it again next year in Vitoria and the magnificent “Fernando Buesa Arena”.