This year’s Euroleague Final Four line-up is finally complete, and it will feature three of the four teams from last year, including an el Clasico rematch between Barcelona and Real Madrid in the first semi-final.
The field also boasts CSKA Moscow, who will be making their 11th Final Four appearance in 12 seasons. Both CSKA and Real Madrid have prevented a Greek side from competing in a Final Four; something that has not happened since 2009.
CSKA Moscow thrashes Panathinaikos
CSKA Moscow will make their regular presence felt on the European club basketball main stage in mid-May after easing past Panathinaikos 74-44 to win their Euroleague quarter-final series 3-2.
For all the hype after an absorbing first four games, the fifth and final contest was unfortunately a one-sided beatdown, as CSKA led 18-10 after one quarter and from there were relentless in their attack. Panathinaikos never got started. The Muscovites never allowed them to.
Afterwards CSKA Moscow coach Ettore Messina praised Panathinaikos’ rookie coach Fragkiskos Alvertis and feels that this year’s Final Four achievement is greater than their past accomplishments.
“It was a great win obviously,” he said. “First, I’d like to say that it was a great series against a great opponent. This rookie coach did everything to make our life difficult these two weeks. Second, I’d like to thank the players. We are having a difficult season. We never had a breath of easy life; we played all the most difficult opponents with the exception of Olympiacos. And today the players showed patience, played great defence, they chose all the options needed on offense, made the right decisions.
“Third, I’d like to thank the club and especially our president, Andrey Vatutin. He was close to us all this week, he showed his support and found all the right words for everyone. Fourth, a big, big thanks to all our fans. I remember that in difficult times, when we played Games 3 against Maccabi and Olympiacos in the past, they showed the same support. We are happy to have them behind our backs at these difficult moments. And I know they will be felt in Milan. Fifth, some words about my staff. I am very fortunate to have this fantastic staff around me here.
“This is one of big factors, which makes me feel happy here at CSKA. Hopefully we will be able to do good job at the Final Four. Finally, I’d like to say that to get to the Final Four is a big deal this season. There were many more teams than usual who deserve to be in the Final Four this year. Many more than in any other edition of the Euroleague in past years. And one more thing. It was great to have Teo [Milos Teodosic] back today. He provided big help to us. Hopefully we will be able to stay healthy before coming to Milan. “
Sasha Kaun led CSKA with 18 points and 9 rebounds. Milos Teodosic made his return to the line-up and got 7 points in limited minutes. James Gist had 11 to lead the Greens.
Real Madrid topple two-time Euroleague champions, Olympiacos
Real Madrid have not only ended Olympiacos’ two-year reign at the top of the Euroleague, but have exacted revenge for last year’s loss in the Final in London by beating the Reds 83-69 and thus winning the series 3-2.
The Spaniards strong start turned out to be enough despite a frantic Olympiacos comeback. Real Madrid always looked to have the upper hand, and were destined for back-to-back Final Four appearances.
“Making it to the Final Four shows that our project is moving forward,” said Real Madrid guard Sergio Llull, who led the winners with 20 points. The whole team played well, we were really focused, no matter if it was the first or 30th minute. We played at the same level all 40 minutes.
“Our fans were great, as always. I am proud to play in front of our people. The key was to be able to play at our rhythm and controlling the boards allowed us to do it. I want to congratulate Olympiacos for being so competitive until the end.”
For Olympiacos, they will now surrender the Euroleague trophy and a different team will be lifting it in Milan on May 18. They gave Madrid all they had though. It was truly a remarkable series.
Vassilis Spanoulis led Olympiacos with 19 points.