By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Anadolu Efes coach Ergin Ataman was saying almost all season long that his team will win the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Well, he proved right.
In what was a dogfight from wire to wire, Shane Larkin and Vasilje Micic made things happen with a 7-2 run that made the score 79-74 two and a half minutes before the final buzzer. Barcelona managed to trim the lead to three (84-81) with 12 seconds left, but the EuroLeague MVP of the season with two free throws sealed the deal.
Micic finished the game with 25 points, Larkin added 21, and Efes after almost two years of wait finally got the EuroLeague title.
Cory Higgins with 23 points was a one-man offense for Barcelona, Kyle Kuric scored 18, Brandon Davies added 17 points, and Nikola Mirotic had 11 points, but they were not enough.
Nick Calathes who hurt his ankle in the semifinal against Milan was a starter, but he was clearly hurt and couldn’t be a real factor in the game during his 17 minutes of action.
A balanced first half
The game started with Sertac Sanli scoring eight of the first 10 points of Efes in the first six minutes of action, while Davies had 10 of Barcelona’s points and Higgins added five on the way to a 17-13 lead.
Thanks to their defense, the Catalans closed the first period with a 22-15 lead with Krunoslav Micov missing a layup at the buzzer.
Leandro Bolmaro with a goal-foul stretched Barcelona’s lead to 10 (25-15) for the first time. That was the cue for Efes to pick up their defense with Tibor Pleiss playing a key role and thanks to a 9-0 run which was completed with a layup by Simon, the lead was trimmed to one (25-24).
Shane Larkin gave Efes a one-point advantage (30-29), while Barcelona tried to react by using small ball and putting Victor Claver in the center position. With two minutes left in the first half, Efes was up by five (34-29), Pleiss hurt his right leg and was subbed, but Sanli returned and with two free throws made the score 36-29 in Efes’ favor.
Still, the two teams went to the locker rooms with Sanli getting a third foul and the Turkish side leading by two (39-36). Barcelona made just 2/11 threes in the first half, while Efes had only 1/8 from the same position. On the contrary, from the free throws line, Efes had 18/22 and Barcelona 12/15 attempts.
The Micic takeover and Barcelona’s comeback
With just four minutes played in the second half, Micic has turned everything around, giving Efes a 52-41 lead after a four-point play that pushed him to 13 points. The Turkish side started clicking on offense, keeping their distance from Barcelona as the Serb guard couldn’t be contained. He scored 11 points in the period, while the duo of Higgins and Kuric tried to keep Barcelona alive.
Higgins reached the 18 point-mark with two minutes left in the period after scoring seven in the first half, but suddenly defense was the issue for the Catalans, with Calathes not being at 100%.
Still, Barcelona with the first three of Mirotic in the game cut the lead to seven as the third period ended with the score being 65-58 in favor of Efes.
Τhe push from the Spanish club continued at the start of the last quarter with one more shot by Mirotic and a two-pointer by Bolmaro who trimmed the lead to three (65-62).
A three by Davies made it a two-point game (69-67) and Mirotic finally tied the game at 69 with five minutes left. The comeback was completed, however, Efes had the last word.