The first phase is made up of four groups with six teams. Of which after ten rounds the first three will pass to a group and the last three to another group. The results will shape the second phase
The final four was held this year in Barcelona. Two of the four teams were Italian and in case of victory of both we would live a transalpine final. The final four is completed with the surprising Partizan of Belgrade and AEK Athens, leaving the crosses VIRTUS BOLONIA against PARTIZAN and BENETTON against AEK ATHENS.
In the first semifinal Kinder did not give rise to any possible doubt. The Italians put land between them from the beginning and really Partizan was no match. All the spotlights were on the couple Rigaudeau and Danilovic but the man of the match was Zoran Savic.
Following the wake of the «basket control» initiated by the Limoges of Maljković in 1993, the Euroleague final held at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona became a true tribute to the defense. The important thing was not to add points, but to avoid that the rival did it. Suffice it to say that AEK’s top scorer was Spain’s José Lasa with… 7 points!
The truth is that during the final both coaches looked for long and controlled possessions, boring on the contrary until the physical and mental exhaustion, and to faith that they achieved it. The attacks never managed to overcome the defenses, and from there the poor final guarisms that, in honor to the truth, were due more to the mistakes in the shot than to the own defensive intensity of the party. Hardly any AEK players came out on top in the final (especially their Americans Anderson and Alexander, who had some unfortunate shooting percentages). Kinder, for their part, had talented players and an undeniable class in attack, who also knew how to sacrifice themselves in defence when needed. The front row, made up of Sconochini and Abbio, did an impressive job of closing all the spaces, and when a rival managed to penetrate was with the insurmountable wall of Savić and Nesterovič. Too much defense for a Greek team already quite blunt in attack.
And so the match began at a frantic pace. With «atypical» quintets in both sets – as a result of the Bosman Law and the nationalizations, none of the ten players who jumped to the track had been born in the country of their team – Kinder began the hostilities with a triple of Danilović and a basket of Sconochini, which were neutralized by a 7-0 partial of AEK (5-7, min. 4). Triples to tutiplén on the part of both teams (Danilović, Rigaudeau and Savić by the Italians, Prelević and Coldebella by the Greeks) did that the minute eight was reached with a promising 18-10 in the scoreboard. But that was the end of the joy of attacking, because Giannis Ioannidis, who saw how the exchange of baskets was damaging to his team, ordered a zone and asked his men maximum defensive intensity. The scene of the match then changed completely. From the races and the three pointers it was passed to the fight body to body, possessions of thirty seconds and fight to death for each rebound. Suffice it to say that the partial in those final twelve minutes of the first period was 10-10.
The Bologna players had shown that they were capable of adapting to any rhythm of play, whether fast or slow, and in the second half they continued to increase their differences (33-20, min. 23). The Italian victory seemed clear, mostly because of AEK’s terrible ineffectiveness in attack. Although the entry of Spanish base Jose Lasa motivated a slight reaction from the Greek team (33-26, min. 25), a new triple Danilović put the difference back at ten points and was a major moral blow to the table of Ioannidis, with Prelević, Anderson and Alexander denied in attack, was powerless to face Kinder. After reaching the 30th minute with a new maximum advantage of eleven points (40-29), it seemed that the Italians could manage their income until the end. However, with a splendid Lasa, AEK managed to force a level finish (45-41, min. 37). It was just the Greek swan song, because the Italians were not nervous and knew how to keep their advantage.
*Anderson – 4p, 4r, 1a.