The Final Four raised the curtain with a game full of rhythm and passion, which ended up coming to a dead stop in the last quarter, with the ten players on the floor in mud trying to grab a place in the final. A basketball stop before the final spurt, which lasted just an instant, which Kraljevo’s genius needed to break the tie at 74 two tenths from the buzzer. Meridian action in his approach, ball for him and clearing of his teammates until Moerman puts a double block on him that frees him from his initial pair, Walkup, and leaves him with Vezenkov. Too fast for the Bulgarian, so wham, lightning approach of the top scorer of the course to the line and… triple, even well punted by his defender. Giant celebration. The champion still stands, the red tide of Olympiacos returns home. It did not matter since Sloukas, from the personal, and Hassan Martin would have equaled an adverse 70-74 in the last minute. Efes wants to be a dynasty in the Euroleague. The last to repeat the title, Olympiacos in 2013.
The red tide was expected, above the eight thousand ‘officially’ announced, but it is not the same to intuit it from a distance than to feel it roaring in the pavilion. A colorful show, gestures and songs, and without flares or inadmissible field invasions, as in Piraeus in the quarterfinal playoff. That push seemed to give Olympiacos focus and take it away from Efes at the start. The champion seemed the other, although the MVP was Larkin. Without respite, he barely rested 54 seconds in the first part. The lighthouse to avoid the drift of those of Ataman. The electric base-shooting guard created advantages and scored (16 of his 21 points then with 4 of 8 from three), drew fouls (4) or assisted (6). Micic, next to him, but below, and good sections of Dunston and Elijah Bryant, working and adding a lot and very quickly, without prominence. Those flashes, that talent allowed the Istanbul team to narrow a deficit (43-42) that became 7 points (12-5 and 39-32).
In the heat of their public, Oly had started with a strong defense, keeping an eye on the rival gamers (7 points conceded in 7 minutes) and looking for the 2.18 Moustapha Fall, who displaced Pleiss, and then finding Hassan Martín, short but wide, very strong. There was more mobility, better cuts and ball circulation in those of the coach of the year, Bartozkas. Sloukas, Walkup and Vezenkov distributed basket passes and Papanikolaou took advantage of the spaces.
And yet, after the restart everything was almost as it had been at the beginning, a new match that almost broke for Efes Elijah Bryant, an unexpected guest, with 9 points in a rush, three triples. A Dunston mate raised the +11: 48-59. The Greeks immediately regrouped behind and Dorsey and Vezenkov put the hit. And, later, McKissic’s force signed the 69-70 to stop the downpour. There were six minutes left, the duel had become muddy, it was another, it no longer flowed. So much so that Efes went 7:38 without scoring a basket in play until… Yes, until the last second, that of Micic, the double MVP of last year was decisive again. His team will defend the crown in the final, the third in a row, still on the crest of the wave despite some weakening.