Partizan as champion, Joventut and Benetton Treviso were exempt from disputing it
Real Madrid eliminated CSKA Sofia
Scavolini eliminated Wroclaw
Estudiantes eliminated Prague
Bologna Virtus eliminated Budivelnik
Bayern Leverkusen eliminated Riga
PAOK eliminated Red Star
Olympiacos eliminated Union Olimpija
Limoges eliminated Guildford
Pau Orthez eliminated Ephes Pilsen
La Cibona eliminated Helsingin
Zadar eliminated CSKA Moscow
Maccabi eliminated Benfica
Maes Pils eliminated Hapoel Tel Aviv
The four final was held this year in Athens so the PAOK played at home. The semifinals pitted Benetton against PAOK in a semifinal that was presumed very equal and on the other hand the favorite in all bets Real Madrid against Limoges of Maljkovic that in principle did not count in any betting community. Kukoc for the transalpinos and Sabonis for the whites hoarded all the spotlights and everyone was waiting for a final between them.
The first semi-final between PAOK and Benetton did not disappoint anyone. The Greeks came out stronger, theirs were always the advantages from the beginning. Thanks to the Prelevic trident, Barlow and Levingston, the PAOK had more and more aspirations to play in the final. But little by little the Italians took control of the match and in the final sprint of the first half they put land in between. The second half was a continuous attempt of recovery by the Hellenes, although the Italians suffered to win the truth is that they always managed to maintain their advantages even if they were minimal. A great Rusconi and the couple Iacopini and Kukoc were the protagonists to achieve it.
In the Athens final, one of the teams with the biggest budget in Europe (the Benetton of Kukoč, Teagle and Rusconi) and one of the most modest teams (Limoges, which instead of stars had basketball «currantes» like Zdovc, Redden and Butter, but had a charismatic coach like Maljković, who had already won two European Cups with Jugoplastika) had been planted. In this tessitura, all the bets clearly favored the Italians, but during the course of the game the reality was another…
The truth is that, for many basketball fans, the final between Limoges and Benettons served to establish a before and after in the European League, as the victory of the French was based on an extreme defensive game that sought to annul the rival above all and long attacks to exhaust possession. It is what from then on was known as «anti-basketball» or «basket muermo», which – to the dismay of many fans – came to be established in the European finals as the preferred method to achieve victory. The poor final score (59-55) says it all.
And that the Benetton began thrown, with a Terry Teagle star plan (scored 11 of the first 15 points of his team), and the French were forced to play contrary to their style, ie the race and shooting fast and without position. Young couldn’t get one right and Zdovc was unable to impose the pace that suited Limoges best. However, the French’s defensive play did work, and this prevented the Italians from escaping too much on the scoreboard (8-19, min. 12), even at the cost of quickly charging with personal fouls. In fact, Benetton’s top star, Kukoč, overwhelmed by Zdovc’s marking (15 centimetres lower than the Croatian forward!), did not score his first basket in play until the seventh minute of the second half. Despite Limoges taking a whopping 13 minutes to reach ten points, Maljković remained calm and continued to rely on their team’s exceptional defence, and with a patient and orderly game the French managed to narrow differences to establish an acceptable score at half-time (22-28). It seemed almost a miracle that Limoges, with horrible first-half throwing percentages (1 out of 7 in three pointers, to end the match with a disastrous 3 out of 20), could retreat to the locker room with all their options intact.
In the second period everything continued along the same lines, and even Benetton went ten points clear (29-39, min. 27). It seemed that the Italian team’s victory would be undeniable. However, in the blink of an eye, Limoges cut differences from the hand of a phenomenal Jim Bilba, and even took the lead for the first time in the match thanks to a Young basket (44-43, min. 32). The French players began to grow from that moment, while the Italians began to lose their roles. Only Kukoč, with three pointers, managed to keep his team afloat. Until the end of the match, Limoges continued to defend with intensity and kept calm when it came to the line of free throws. Although Benetton tied the match with a triple of Kukoč with one minute to go (55-55), two negative actions of the Croatian forward (a personal foul on Bilba and later a loss of the ball) ended up condemning his team. Bilba and Zdovc did not fail in the «1+1»- something that Teagle did in the absence of eight seconds with 59-55 on the score- and Limoges was won with a victory as unexpected as deserved.
At the end of the game, there were opinions for all tastes. Skansi commented: «Basketball died this afternoon. We came here to play a basketball game and we came across a wrestling match. It was the triumph of anti-basketball. Of very different opinion was Maljković: «Let my friend Skansi leave me at Kukoč and take the player of mine who wants and we’ll see who practices anti-basketball. He knows, because he was my second, that we played brilliantly in Jugoplastika. And also in Barcelona. The only thing I do is to adapt myself to the human group that I have».