After the preliminary phase where finally after several years without achieving it, CSKA could pass to the round of sixteen, none of the greats with the exception of Zalgiris, missed the regular group
Real Madrid and Olympiacos were exempted from playing it
Limoges eliminated Brno
Barcelona eliminated AEK
Bayern Leverkusen eliminated Split
Panathinaikos eliminated Kiev
Joventut eliminated Broceni
La Cibona eliminated the Prievidza
Scavolini eliminated Zalgiris Kaunas
Benfica eliminated Honved
Ephesus Pilsen eliminated BBK
Bologna Virtus eliminated Valley Tigers
CSKA eliminated Antibes
PAOK eliminated Hapoel Tel Aviv
Maccabi Tel Aviv eliminated Bellinzona
Union Olimpija eliminated Maes Pils
The final four was held on Spanish soil, in the city of Zaragoza. Like the previous year, we experienced a passionate Greek duel Olympiacos against Panathinaikos and at the other crossroads a whole semifinal of the morbidity because Real Madrid two years after the collapse of 1993 would again face Limoges.
The match always had that feeling of revenge. Maljkovic’s Limoges again wanted to slow down the game as much as possible to try to have a chance. But this time the whites led from the bench by another master like Obradovic was not left to surprise and qualified for the final in a solvent way.
After fifteen years of drought – too long for a team used to winning it all – Real Madrid won their eighth European Cup in Zaragoza. The presence of a player of the category of Arvydas Sabonis and, above all, the wise direction of a coach like Željko Obradović (three European titles with three different teams in just four years) worked the miracle.
The dialectical duel between Obradović and Ioannidis prior to the final turned into a tangle of complicated tactics when both teams took to the field. Not even the accumulation of personnel from Sabonis, Santos and Arlauckas diminished the defensive intensity of Real Madrid, who practiced a book defence that completely annulled the Greeks’ attack. In addition, the whites formed a real pineapple, with players who had worn the same jersey for the past few years, and it was not just Sabonis who scored. Olympiakós, for its part, had limited itself to fulfilling its role, and even starred in a relative surprise in the semi-finals, eliminating the all-powerful and millionaire Panathinaïkós from Vranković, Paspalj, Alvertis, Ekonomou and company. In the grand final, however, the whole of Piraeus could do little to stop the alluvium madridista. Its star forward, Eddie Johnson, was bound by the excellent defence made by Isma Santos and «the rat» García Coll.
Real Madrid, hand in hand with an unstoppable Sabonis, began launched – with its usual defense «made in Obradović» and a more fluid attack than usual, while in the Olympiakós men as experienced as Fassoulas, Volkov or former NBA Eddie Johnson did not give a right. The white set took the initiative on the scoreboard from the first minute with a triple Sabonis, and no longer leave it throughout the game. The shooters of the Greek team were always trapped in the spider web woven by Santos and Garcia Coll (Eddie Johnson could only score two points in the first ten minutes of the game, and fruit of frustration committed an unsporting foul on his defender Santos). At Real Madrid, on the other hand, Antúnez led the game masterfully and Sabonis was in charge of culminating the attacks, so that the white team began to distance themselves progressively (12-4, min. 5; 20-8, min. 10; 27-17, min. 15). The men from Obradović had a maximum advantage of thirteen points in the first half (34-21, min. 17), although the Lithuanian’s third personal foul brought him to the bench. Only the weakness in the defensive rebound prevented the team from sentencing the match in this first half. With this background, and Arlauckas’ growing involvement in the game (rather muted at the start of the game, with seven of his first eight misses), the whites managed to stabilise the differences around ten points.
In the second half, despite not having Sabonis, Real Madrid continued to clearly dominate the match with great defensive intensity and long, controlled attacks. In Olympiakos everything was trouble, and the constant substitutions and tactical variations of Giannis Ioannidis – apart from some impressive brawls to his players – did not help the Greek team focus on the game. When Sabonis returned to the track in the 27th minute (48-38), perhaps because of his prolonged inactivity, committed an absurd fourth foul, although at that time Arlauckas was responsible for taking over the Lithuanian scorer. Olympiakos’ last attempts to reduce differences were unsuccessful, and although Johnson approached his team to seven points with a triple with a foul of 4’47» (54-47), Real Madrid remained calm, tightened again in defense and suffocated any attempt at Greek comeback. With 2’22» to go, a Sabonis basket placed a 60-47 that was already definitive for the fate of the match.