Kingston knocked out CSKA Moscow and earlier in the run-up to Den Helder
Bayern Leverkusen eliminated Maes Pils
Scavolini eliminated Heraklith
Aris Thessaloniki eliminated Urheilijat
The Maccabi eliminated Sodertalje and before in the previous to Pully Basket
Jugoplastika eliminated Galatasaray
Limoges eliminated CSKA Sofia
Barcelona eliminated Hiefenech
Barça’s curse in the European Cup continues. In Paris, as previously in Geneva, Munich and Zaragoza, the azulgrana played again gripped by nerves and fear and were again with honey on their lips. Pop 84 Split, on the other hand, made history by winning their third consecutive final, and definitely became the particular «black beast» of the Catalans. Although the press chose Toni Kukoč MVP of the Final Four, this time it was not the Croatian forward the most decisive player in the final, but his teammate Zoran Savić, author of 27 points with magnificent percentages of pitch (9 of 13 in shots of two and 9 of 12 in free throws). Pop 84’s power forward was a real nightmare for the Azulgrana defence, who could never deal with him.
Barcelona arrived in the French capital as the undisputed favourites in all bets, having finished as the absolute leader of the quarter-final league, and their line-up was further strengthened after their overwhelming victory over Maccabi in the semi-finals (101-67). Split’s team, despite no longer having players as classy as in their old Jugoplastika days, showed that it continues to form a compact block with young players of unquestionable quality, who face the decisive matches without any pressure. On paper, Barcelona were clear favourites to win the final, by squad, by budget, by inner game… by everything. But in the end he failed the main argument, which is mentality, being convinced of victory, playing without the additional pressure of historical urgencies. And in this sense Barça failed miserably and set the worst game of the season. If the previous year the Pop 84 (then called Jugoplastika) was clearly superior to the azulgrana, on this occasion it can be said that Barcelona defeated itself in a terrible performance, after a really disastrous match that becomes more difficult to explain after seeing that the great star of the Yugoslavian team, Toni Kukoč, did not make a match not dazzling, but even good (with 4 baskets of 14 attempts). The three Barcelona players who were supposed to lead their team (Solozábal, Epi and Norris) had a bad night, and it is not easy to understand how a team with an average score of 91.1 points during the qualifying group can barely reach 65 in the final, with none of their players scoring more than 12 points.
The azulgrana jumped to the court overflowing ambition, supported by a fans that encouraged them constantly. But soon it was seen that the old ghosts of Barça were flying over the track of Paris-Bercy, as the faces became increasingly tense and the wrists shrank even in the safest players. Barcelona, aware of its superiority in the inner game, loaded all its attacks on the pivots. Not even when they bent the ball outwards the men of azulgrana perimeter dared to shoot. Meanwhile, the Split were devoted to playing basketball as they like, defending perfectly individually and hindering the circulation of the ball in the Catalan attack. Savić became the real bastion of his team, and it was not even necessary the help of Kukoč (very irregular throughout the night) for Pop 84 to dominate the scoreboard. With 16 points from Savić -which continuously forced one on one plays that almost always ended up in a basket or personal foul- Pop 84 gained an advantage of twelve points in the first half (38-26), although Barcelona, in an almost miraculous way due to its bad game (with 7 ball losses and 6 failed free throws of 12 attempts), managed to reduce the disadvantage to rest (40-34).
The azulgrana group had the hope of thinking that, in the second half, it would be impossible to play worse than in the first, and the first minutes seemed to reinforce this conviction, as the men of Maljković approached on the scoreboard a rival who began to notice the weight of personal. In the 30th minute, Trumbo placed his team just two points (50-48) after forcing the fourth foul of Kukoč. With Lester and Perasović eliminated, Toni forced to sit on the bench and Sretenović and Savić loaded with personnel, it seemed that this was the final moment for Barcelona had given a change of direction to the game. However it was not like that, and the azulgrana did not know how to culminate their reaction. Despite having to play the most committed phase of the match with their usual reserves Tabak, Naglić and Pavićević, a new stretch of Pop 84 placed the scoreboard in an almost insurmountable – by the dynamics of the match and the nefarious game azulgrana- 61-51 afalta 4’25». To three minutes of the end, a basket and free additional shot of Pavićević after forcing the fifth personal lack of Solozábal finished with the scarce hopes of victory of the Barcelona (64-53). In the end, a fair and deserved victory for the Yugoslavian team, against whose game you have to take off your hat. They represent youth and joy in basketball, increasingly dominated by teams made by checkbook.