EuroLeague 2021 Final: Anadolu Efes opens its championship trophy cabinet

After the cancellation of 2020 due to the pandemic, there was a desire for a Final Four in 2021. It was held in Cologne, respecting the previous year’s venue, and in the end it was held without spectators and at a minimum to preserve the sanitary aspect of the competition

It was one of the most evenly matched regular phases in history, where the fact that the courts had no or very few spectators marked the course of the game. Many things were decided practically on the last day, among them the leadership and getting into the top eight to be in the playoffs, where we even had to wait for the postponed games.

In the end, Barcelona finished top, beating CSKA thanks to the average. It should be noted that teams like Maccabi, Olympiacos, Baskonia or Panathinaikos were left out of the playoffs, or that teams like Real Madrid or Fenerbahce dropped a couple of rungs in the table in favour of Milan and Munich.

1. Barcelona (24-10)
2. CSKA Moscow (20-10)
3. Anadolu Efes (22-12)
4. Armani Milán (21-13)
5. Bayern Múnich (21-13)
6. Real Madrid (20-14)
7. Fenerbahce (20-14)
8. Zenit St. Petersburg (20-14)
9. Valencia Basket (19-15)
10. Baskonia Vitoria (18-16)
11. Zalgiris Kaunas (17-17)
12. Olympiacos (16-18)
13. Maccabi (14-20)
14. Asvel Villeurbanne (13-21)
15. ALBA Berlín (12-22)
16. Panathinaikos (11-23)
17. Estrella Roja (10-24)
18. Khimki (4-30)

In the playoffs, the level playing field was far from being any less equal, a true reflection of the whole year. Only one tie was decided on the fast track, with CSKA taking advantage of Fenerbahce’s injuries (3-0). The other three had to go to the fifth game, with Barcelona suffering against Zenit (3-2), Anadolu Efes against Real Madrid (3-2) and Armani Milan against Bayern Munich (3-2).

Barcelona vs Zenit was not a classic first vs. eighth. The Russians, led by Pascual, a great connoisseur of the Blaugrana club, made things very difficult for the Catalans. Only in the fifth and final game did we see a more solid Barcelona (3-2).

(74-76); (81-78); (70-78); (74-61); (79-53)

CSKA Moscow, without Milutinov due to injury and James due to an early exit, did not have too many problems to beat a Fenerbahce with a lot of injury problems, covid and other misfortunes. In the end a clear victory (3-0) for the Russians.

(92-76); (78-67); (68-85)

Anadolu Efes had to suffer until the last few possessions of the tie, even though they had started off with a sweep in the first two games, to overcome a Real Madrid team that, despite numerous injuries to important players, especially on the inside, showed its competitive spirit right to the end (3-2).

(90-63); (91-68); (80-76); (82-76); (88-83)

Milan and Bayern showed why we were facing the most evenly matched tie on paper. A series that had to go to the fifth game, where the Italians were one step ahead to win and qualify for the F4 (3-2) after many years of waiting.

(79-78); (80-69); (85-79); (85-82); (92-89)

After the playoffs we came to the final four, which this year was held in Cologne. Of the three regulars in recent years, Fenerbahce, CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid, only the Russians qualified. Barcelona returned to the Final Four seven years later, and Milan a whopping 29 years later. Anadolu Efes repeated F4. The semifinals were served, BARCELONA against ARMANI MILAN on one side, and CSKA MOSCOW against ANADOLU EFES on the other.

The first semi-final was a revenge attempt by Anadolu Efes for the defeat suffered in the 2019 final against CSKA Moscow. The game had two very different halves, a first three-quarter period of total domination by the Turks, who were leading by 21, and a last quarter where CSKA was able to come back and get into the game, although in the end the balance of the game went to the Ottoman side.

Anadolu Efes 89
*Micic – 25p, 6a, 3r
*Beaubois – 15p, 1r, 1a
*Simon – 10p, 6r, 3a
*Singleton – 1p, 3r, 2t
*Sanli – 19p, 8r, 3t
Balbay – 0p
Larkin – 11p, 1r, 1a
Anderson – 2p, 1r, 1t
Dunston – 0p, 1r, 1br
Moerman – 6p, 1r

CSKA Moscow 86
*Hackett – 17p, 3r, 2a
*Hilliard – 0p, 1r, 1a
*Kurbanov – 2p, 2r, 2t
*Shengelia – 10p, 7r, 1t
*Eric – 0p
Ukhov – 8p, 1r, 1a
Lundberg – 15p, 1a
Strelnieks – 2p, 1br
Antonov – 0p
Clyburn – 26p, 7r, 1a
Voigtmann – 6p, 4r, 2a

In the other semi-final we experienced a real battle from start to finish. Barcelona first dominated with a ten-point lead but then suffered a bad third quarter that allowed Milan to come back and enjoy their maximum advantages. In the end it all came down to the final seconds, when Higgins scored the winning basket, one of those that usually go down in history.

Barcelona 84
*Calathes – 17p, 6a, 4r
*Abrines – 6p, 4r, 1br
*Higgins – 11p, 2r, 2br
*Mirotic – 21p, 6r, 1t
*Davies – 2p, 2r, 2a
Bolmaro – 4p, 3a, 1br
Kuric – 8p, 1r, 1a
Hanga – 2p, 1br
Claver – 0p, 1r, 1br
Smits – 3p, 4r
Gasol – 10p, 3r, 1t
Oriola – 0p

Armani Milán 82
*Delaney – 9p, 7r, 4a
*Shields – 13p, 5r, 3br
*Micov – 14p, 1r, 1a
*Leday – 8p, 3r, 1a
*Hines – 4p, 5r, 2a
Rodríguez – 11p, 2a, 1r
Punter – 23p, 2r
Roll – 0p, 1br
Datome – 0p
Evans – 0p, 1r, 1br
Tarczewski – 0p, 4r, 1br
Brooks – 0p

Anadolu Efes, after their failed attempt to reign in Europe last season when the global pandemic forced the suspension of the competition when they were the most in-form team in the Euroleague, became the second Turkish team (after Fenerbahce Ulker) to win the Euroleague by defeating FC Barcelona in a thrilling final, Larkin and Micic, Micic and Larkin, were a constant nightmare for the Azulgranas, in which their star player, Mirotic, once again disappointed in an important game and the recovered Pau Gasol could not get rid of the thorn of the only title missing in his enormous list of honors. After an even first two quarters, the two devils of Anadolu Efes, Larkin (21 points) and Micic (25 points) were unstoppable after the break and put a hammer on a blue-and-blue team that only Higgins (23 points), Kuric (18) and Davies (17) kept afloat until the final moments. Calathes, hobbled by a sprained ankle suffered in the semifinal, was well below his usual level.

Jasikevicius, aware of the enormous offensive threat of Larkin and Micic, put two dogs of prey like Higgins and Claver on top of them, and his plan worked during the first half. The game was played around the hoops, where Sertac Sanli and Davies had a great duel and scored 18 of the first 27 points of the game (13-14, min. 8). When fouls threatened the two inside players of Anadolu Efes and Barça, the duel moved to the perimeter, a moment that Kuric, the smartest of the class, took advantage of to extend the Culé lead at the end of the first quarter (15-22). With no news from Micic, Larkin, Mirotic and Calathes, the blaugranas were imposing their defensive intensity to take the lead on the scoreboard. Bolmaro established the maximum income with a «2+1» (15-25, min. 12), but from that moment on Barcelona was disconnected in attack and conceded a 21-4 partial in seven minutes (36-29, min. 19), although Bolmaro and Kuric maintained the equality at the break (39-36).

At the restart, Larkin and Micic came back to life and put Anadolu Efes back on the scoreboard (52-41, min. 24). To make matters worse for the blaugranas, Calathes and Davies committed their third foul. Fortunately for Barcelona, first Kuric and then Higgins came to the rescue and with two three-pointers prevented the gap from increasing (61-54, min. 28). Mirotic, who had disappeared until then, closed the quarter with a three-pointer, his first basket of the game (65-58). The start of the fourth and final period was demoralizing for Anadolu Efes: in less than a minute, Micic committed his third personal foul and Sertac Sanli his fourth, and a resurgent Mirotic was in charge of bringing the scoreboard to a draw (69-69, min. 36), coinciding with Micic’s departure from the court, threatened by his fourth personal foul. The game seemed to be headed for an even finish, in which the heavyweights of each team had to take responsibility, and so they did. Higgins responded with a 2+1 to a triple by Micic (72-72, min. 36). Then Larkin and Davies burst in, but it was the Serbian point guard of Anadolu Efes who dictated the sentence with two genius baskets breaking the blue-and-blue defense from the outside in (81-76, min. 39), complemented by two free throws by Larkin that killed the game and the final (83-76 with 31 seconds left). Although Kuric added some excitement with three free throws with 12 seconds left (84-81), Micic sealed the win for Anadolu Efes from the line.

Anadolu Efes 86
*Micic – 25p, 5a, 3br
*Larkin – 21p, 3a, 2r
*Simon – 4p, 3r, 2a
*Singleton – 4p, 3r, 1t
*Sanli – 12p, 2r, 1t
Beaubois – 3p, 1r
Anderson – 0p, 2r
Moerman – 6p, 8r, 1a
Dunston – 6p, 3r, 1br
Pleiss – 5p, 3r
Balbay – 0p
Tuncer –

Barcelona 81
*Calathes – 0p, 2r, 1a
*Higgins – 23p, 2r, 2br
*Claver – 2p, 1r
*Mirotic – 11p, 9r, 1t
*Davies – 17p, 11r, 2a
Bolmaro – 7p, 5r, 3a
Abrines – 2p, 4r
Kuric – 18p, 2a, 1r
Smits – 0p, 1a
Gasol – 1p, 3r, 1t
Hanga – 0p
Oriola –

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