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
After the TOP 16 the quarterfinals playoff offered us the following duels: MONTEPASCHI SIENA against FENERBAHCE ULKER, TAU CERAMICA against PARTIZAN, MACCABI against BARCELONA and CSKA against OLYMPIACOS.
Montepaschi Siena beat Fenerbahce Ulker on the fast track. The first match in Italy was more disputed than the second, which the Tuscans won with a clear difference.
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the European Cup, a legendary team, CSKA Moscow, once again won the Euroleague by defeating Tel Aviv’s Maccabi in a replay of the final two years ago in Prague, although on this occasion there has not been the same equality as then and the Muscovites have shown themselves clearly superior to their rivals. With this victory, CSKA win their sixth continental title (four from the former European Cup and two from the Euroleague), leaving them just two short of equalling the continent’s most successful team, Real Madrid (winners of eight editions of the former European Cup), and threatening to equal or even surpass this legendary record. In terms of budget and squad, CSKA are one level above the rest of European clubs, the current team’s base has contested six consecutive Final Four and, following the announced renewal of Ettore Messina – the basic pillar in Moscow’s successful gear – there is no end in sight to their successes.
The Russian team, full of talent, gave a demonstration of solidity and security on the track of the Palacio de Deportes in Madrid. It endured the tireless attacks of a Maccabi full of courage and desire in the first half and imposed its rhythm and quality after the break, in twenty minutes of absolute dominance and brightness of its countless stars.
Knowing that the static game favored the interests of his rival, Maccabi printed a great speed to the game from the first minute, which resulted in an initial partial of 0-5. A pressing defence that drowned the circulation of the ball, a huge Casspi (7 points) and a nervous CSKA -Šiškauskas, MVP of the Euroleague, was unrecognisable – brought joy to the almost 7,000 macabeo fans who dyed the stands a marked yellow. However, if there is one thing that characterises the Russian team, it is its multiple resources and the depth of its squad. Despite the ineffectiveness of Šiškauskas and Holden, CSKA reacted from the hand of Langdon (MVP of the final), who began to punish his opponent from long distance, and the scoreboard took a complete turn: 16-10. Only Batista’s inner power and the effectiveness of the young Casspi allowed Maccabi to change the dynamics of the match, save the first quarter (22-21) and even take the lead in the second (27-29). But it was simply a transitional phase of the match that lasted until Langdon put his wrist back together. Two almost consecutive three pointers from CSKA’s North American shot-stopper scored an 11-2 partial that threatened to break the match (38-31). However, a new attack from Maccabi – more for courage and impetus than for good play – allowed the Israelis to equalise again a couple of minutes before half-time (38-38), which was reached with swords in all the air thanks to a triple finish from Bynum (42-41).
The third quarter began with two Holden trebles, which opened a new seven-point gap in CSKA’s favour. However, more important than the score were the sensations and rhythm that the Muscovites imposed on the game. CSKA seemed to have finally brought the game to their ground, with a slow, locked game that clearly favoured their interests. Maccabi couldn’t find a static solution, couldn’t get comfortable positions on the outside shot and Vujčić – once a determining factor – was missing with just two points (the first two of the match). In this situation, Will Bynum decided to throw the team behind his back and this was what ended up leading Maccabi to disaster. Sherf’s men forgot about the collective game and all the attacks ended in clarifications for the powerful North American base. The Russian team began to make important differences already (56-47), in a dynamics of party that only a triple of the omnipresent Bynum managed to palliate at the end of the third period: 63-57.
The Israeli reaction attempt at the beginning of the last quarter was nipped in the bud by a triple from Šiškauskas, who started leading CSKA. Two free throws from Smodiš put the difference on the scoreboard above ten points, and a subsequent triple from the Slovenian power forward (who until then had signed a horrible match) certified Russian superiority with 6’40» (71-57) missing. It took Maccabi almost five minutes to open his locker in the last quarter, and when he did it was too late. After a 10-0 loss to CSKA, the scoreline was already as heavy as a slab (73-57) and the title clearly pointed to the Russian team’s large display cabinets. Ettore Messina knew he had half a game in his hand and handed over the Moscow machine to Papaloukas, the «gold reserve». The Greek base finished cooling the game with his ball control and Maccabi, despite his constant efforts with more heart than success, found the final lost with two minutes left.