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 is held this year in the German city of Munich. Remaining the crosses of the following way, on the one hand the duel between two eternal enemies VIRTUS BOLONIA against the FORTITUDO BOLONIA, on the other hand the OLYMPIACOS against the surprising ZALGIRIS KAUNAS.
The first semifinal between Italians offered the intense game that was presumed. They were two rivals who knew each other perfectly and the match had no owner until the last possessions. In the end, Nesterovic, Danilovic and Sconochini stood out.
The «green tide», the Lithuanian team of the Žalgiris Kaunas of which Arvydas Sabonis is co-owner, became the first Baltic champion of Europe’s top basketball competition with two fundamental weapons: defensive intensity and counterattack. Faced with the very tough defences and slowness (confused with control) that had been imposed in the previous finals, the most immediate result of which were pauperimous markers – the Limoges of Maljković was the one that showed the «way» to everyone else – Kaunas’ team showed that it is possible to maintain a constant pace of play, both in defense and in attack. The key to the first: defending the ball more than the basket; the second: success in the outside shot and counterattack.
In Munich, two antagonistic conceptions of basketball clashed: Italian speculation against Lithuanian talent. Kinder’s objective was to impose their greatest defensive strength and a slow pace in order to stop the Žalgiris’ offensive flow, and during the first few minutes they seemed to achieve their objective, despite Kazlauskas’ men trying to speed up the game. In the midst of a fierce fight for every ball, for every rebound, with constant faults and blocks, the balance presided over the final during the first quarter (17-13, min. 10); however, the hectic pace set by American base Edney and the increased Lithuanian shooting capacity began to open up an important gap in the score (42-26, min. 39), with baskets of all colours, counter-attacks, palmeos and, in general, an offensive joy that contrasted with Kinder’s inefficiency in attack (just eight field baskets in this first half). At half-time there was a clear advantage for Kaunas (45-30) and the feeling that, for the first time in recent years, the attack was beating the defence in a European final.
Fifteen points down at the start of the second half forced Ettore Messina to radically change his plans. Basketball was no longer of any use to Kinder control, because that control had been lost in the first half. What had happened to make this happen? Simply, the Žalgiris had imposed a constant rhythm and incisive hand of its base Edney (MVP of the final) and the success of Štombergas, Bowie and Mindaugas Žukauskas, who scored within seconds of possession. This proved that the Euroleague could be won by playing basketball instead of «racanear». Strong defense when the opponent has the ball and score as fast and easy as possible.
The biggest problems for the Kinder came in the inner game, as the tall men of the Žalgiris, fast, versatile and large perimeter shooters, were very difficult to defend. To neutralize the Italian attack, Kazlauskas had individualized Edney and one of his pivots (Eurelijus Žukauskas or Zídek), while the other three players were constantly changing assignments in all blocks. This type of defence required a formidable physical condition, which the Lithuanians possessed. In this simple and effective way, the Žalgiris managed to vindicate pure basketball.
As the second half progressed, Kinder realized that her control basketball was useless in trying to stop the Žalgiris. Messina’s men, lacking an outside pitch, then tried to resort to penetrations to try to force fouls on the inner men of the Kaunas team, but the Lithuanian defence was always attentive to help and did not let itself be surprised. When the Žalgiris reached its maximum advantage of the whole match (68-48, min. 31), the Kinder looked for the desperate resource of the triple throws, which served him to cut spectacularly the differences (77-72 to 1’28» for the end). However, the Lithuanian team’s mental strength allowed them to remain calm at these decisive moments. A triple from Bowie with 1’01» missing (80-72) and a subsequent free kick from Edney (81-72) sentenced the match and allowed the Žalgiris to deservedly conquer the first Euroleague in their history.