This season 24 teams begin where in the first phase are framed in three groups of eight teams. After a league of 14 days will qualify the top five of each group and the best sixth team for the TOP16
*Batiste – 2p, 6r.
Tel Aviv’s Maccabi – a basketball machine that threatens to impose a new dominating dynasty in the style of Cibona or Jugoplastika during the 80’s and 90’s – deservedly reissued its Euroleague championship title by beating Tau Cerámica 90-78 by the hand of a great Šarūnas Jasikevičius (22 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists), which personally became the first player to achieve this tournament for the third consecutive year. Luis Scola, author of 21 points, was the best of a Tau Cerámica handcuffed by the excellent defense of Maccabi and missed a greater contribution of Arvydas Macijauskas, who, subjected to an overwhelming marking, could barely achieve 13 points with a single field basket. The yellow domination was also experienced in the stands, with 7,000 fans of Maccabi against just 600 of the Basque team (although «allies» with the fans of Panathinaïkós).
The Israeli champion, who presented his candidacy for the title throughout the competition thanks to a spectacular and tremendously offensive game (top scorer in the Euroleague), began to tip the final on his side after a first quarter played with speed, inspiration, intelligence and effectiveness. The Maccabi, a team with a thousand battles, wasted confidence on all four sides, and in the face of this the Tau Ceramica could barely put up a fight. At times, the Basconist side seemed to pay the price for the semi-final elimination of the all-powerful CSKA, and began to feel the pressure. Everything that in the semi-finals had been successful and a selection of shots by Duško’s men – Ivanović – now turned into lost balls and missed throws, the product of nerves and haste. Not only the American Maceo Baston and the Lithuanian Šarūnas Jasikevičius hammered the Vitorian hoop without compassion, but also the substitute Nestoras Kommatos with his three pointers, and little by little Maccabi was opening differences in the score (6-5; 12-5; 21-11). The dominance of the Israeli team was not only reflected in an attack full of effectiveness, but in a serious and forceful defense. Pini Gershon put up a variety of defences throughout the match, which his players executed to perfection. Macijauskas could not even get up to throw, Scola rarely received, Dávid did not seem to be on the track and the penetrations of the outside men were very limited. At the end of a first quarter clearly dominated by the macabeo team, the 26-15 partial, while not definitive, was symptomatic of the attitude of both teams.
The picture of the match barely changed during the second quarter. Maccabi continued to maintain their excellent shooting percentages (they scored six consecutive three pointers without a single fault), although the fighting spirit and grit of the Tau Ceramica allowed them to overcome key moments in their souls (maximum disadvantage of sixteen points, 36-20) and cling to the encounter in expectation of better times. Duško’s team Ivanović went to half-time with an eleven-point deficit (50-39), but with the conviction that they had still departed, as Maccabi could not maintain the same scoring pace throughout the game.
At the start of the third quarter, the Vitoria team left the nerves and distrust in the dressing room and the final took on another color. Burstein’s fourth staff, a prey dog on Macijauskas, opened a new door to hope, although the Lithuanian Tau Ceramica still had his day and even missed free kicks. The difference was maintained thanks to the triples of Jasikevičius and company, but the situation was very different. After having been at the edge of the precipice during a phase of clear macabeo dominion, the Tau Ceramica rose from its ashes with an admirable breed to put the title in the eaves at the end of the third quarter (65-62).
The match entered from that moment in a more equal phase, although the basconist group began to pay the effort that was overcome so much disadvantage and failed to get ahead on the scoreboard. With five minutes remaining, the title was still undecided (72-66), although Maccabi were still scoring relatively smoothly and at key moments, and in the face of this the Tau Ceramica was always seen to tow. The match could be in the hands of Macijauskas, who finally managed to get up with relative clarity from beyond 6.25. He did it twice… and failed. The nerves and the precipitation began to make a dent in the basconist picture, the rebounds escaped of the hands and the step of the minutes played against him. In the final moments, the macabeo team took all their caste of champion and made it clear that he had come to Moscow to win the title. Faced with the Tau Ceramica’s offensive jam, Jasikevičius and Parker, two unforgiving players, scored to raise the return to twelve points, with only three minutes to play (78-66). The final and title were already decided in favour of Maccabi, whose fans began to celebrate the victory in the stands.