EuroLeague Experts pick Real’s winning factor, best Final Four moment and more

2018-06-01T17:12:19+00:00 2018-06-01T18:45:21+00:00.

Dionysis Aravantinos

01/Jun/18 17:12

Eurohoops.net

Which player delivered the most surprising performance in the Final Four? And what was the key factor behind Real Madrid’s triumph?

By Eurohoops Team / info@eurohoops.net

It’s all about what took place in Belgrade in EuroLeague’s Experts Round Table, post-Final Four edition. The key aspect that led Real Madrid to the “Decima”, the player who surprised with his game, the best losing performance and the most unforgettable moment of the weekend.

Per EuroLeague.net:

The panel for the 2018 Final Four includes Luca Chiabotti, the former basketball expert-in-residence at La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy; Final Four Ambassador Dusko Savanovic, who was a member of the2011 All-EuroLeague team; Djorjde Matic of Serbian newspaper Novosti; Stavros Barbarousis, Eurohoops.net Chief Editor; and Frankie Sachs of Euroleague.net. Check out their opinions on four questions looking back at the historic occasion that was the 2018 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in Belgrade!

What was the key factor for Madrid to become the EuroLeague champion?

Luca Chiabotti

“It’s very hard to choose one single factor: I have enjoyed every single moment in the two Real Madrid games in Belgrade. It was a perfect team lesson: if Pablo Laso gave credit to his players after the winning, I think that Laso’s work was also outstanding. He changed lineups all season long and he was simply perfect in the management of his team in Belgrade when all the players came back to the roster after their injuries. He found the best player in the best moment; changed substantially between the first and second game the minutes on the court of his best players, like Llull and Ayon; and the basketball level of his team was very high for 80 minutes. Of course, these things are possible because of the commitment of the players.”

Dusko Savanovic

“I believe that the key factor for Real Madrid was probably the focus they had in the championship game. They were much more concentrated than Fenerbahce and that is hard to achieve when you have Zeljko Obradovic coaching against you. Every Madrid player came out to do his job and did it to perfection. Players like Jaycee Carroll, Trey Thompkins and, of course, Fabien Causeur had some of their best games this season. If you want to be a champion, you need players to step up like they did. There are plenty of examples over the years of players not considered stars who lead their team to victory. For instance, Nikola Kalinic played that role for Fener last season.”

Djorjde Matic

“Real has high individual and team quality, and they proved it. But I think that key factor was that they had no pressure on them, that and their desire to just play beautiful basketball. Others came to Belgrade only to win. Another important factor was Sergio Llull: he was the rock that had been missing in Madrid’s winning puzzle before he came back from injury.”

Stavros Barbarousis

“First of all, it was yet another amazing Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four that gave us unique moments, as is the case every season in Europe’s top basketball competition. The new EuroLeague champions were the best team at the Final Four. As I expressed in the last round table, Real Madrid had the most authentic talent among this season’s four finalists. They can get points out of all their players and not just the expected protagonists, like the MVP, Luka Doncic, and their captain, Sergio Llull. Coach Pablo Laso managed the roster that he had at his disposal perfectly and was able to capitalize on every player he used during each game. As a result, he had many more options but also solutions for every problem the rival bench posed. In this way, Madrid was able to score with greater ease than their opponents, either from the perimeter with long-range shots or closer to the basket, and, in combination with their tough defense, they were in complete control after the first quarter, both in the semifinal against CSKA Moscow, but also in the final against Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul. So, they managed to get clean victories against the two favorites before the start of the Final Four in Belgrade and win the trophy for the 10th time in their history by focusing on team play and their brand of total basketball, which they played with confidence and faith in their abilities.”

Frankie Sachs

Timing. The concept of playoff basketball has one big advantage and one disadvantage over sports without playoffs. On the one hand, teams can build up over the season to play their best basketball at the right time. On the other, it is possible for the best teams to peak early and lose in a playoff to a team in better form. It is not fair to say which team is better, but it is clear that with Madrid’s current squad, May was the best time for the Final Four. Not until May did Coach Pablo Laso have his full complement of players available and each one of them played valuable roles in Belgrade. This same Final Four played even one month earlier without Sergio Llull or one week earlier without Facu Campazzo might have been a much different affair.”

What player surprised you the most at the Final Four?

Luca Chiabotti

“It’s too easy to say Fabien Causeur, a good player until his stellar performance in the final game. Now we can say that Causeur is a great player. He is 31 years old, has played more than 150 EuroLeague games in his career, and it is not a surprise to see him play at a high level. But what he did against Fenerbahce deserved MVP consideration. I think that he is starting a new career at the highest level. He is much more than the talented, fearless offensive player that we all thought.”

Dusko Savanovic

“The player who surprised me the most was Luka Doncic. Of course, I knew he was a great player, but I didn’t expect him to play at such high level in the championship game. After being chosen the EuroLeague MVP the previous night, all eyes were set on him. Any regular player would be a bit intimidated, but Luka had a great start to the game while every other Madrid player was struggling to score. He went to the foul line a lot, showing great determination, and definitely deserved to be chosen as the Final Four MVP, too. I have never seen any player do so many things – and do them so well! – at his age. Doncic is an unbelievable talent.”

Djorjde Matic

Luka Doncic. Everybody knows about his extra quality, but it was so exciting to watch a 19-year-old kid handle such enormous pressure. I repeat, he is just 19 years old and he won everything: MVP of the season, Rising Star, Final Four MVP, and the EuroLeague title. And he won it all with a smile! Amazing!!!”

Stavros Barbarousis

“Madrid guard Fabien Causeur! In a team that was full of quality, he did everything that his coach needed him to do. He played defense, he was good at creating and, in the final, he also proved his ability to score, as he was the EuroLeague champions’ top scorer with 17 points. Coming off a relatively unproductive playoff series against Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens, in which he got a total of 7 points and 6 assists in four games, his performance in the Final Four was a pleasant surprise.”

Frankie Sachs

“Heading to Belgrade, I could have envisioned many different scenarios in which many different players could have led the winning team in scoring in the championship game, but the scenario in which Fabien Causeur became Madrid’s most-effective weapon was not high on that list. However, on a team ripe with backcourt stars, Causeur shined brightest on the night the greatest trophy in European basketball was awarded. In the third quarter alone, which began with Fenerbahce nursing a two-point lead, Causeur went wild for 12 points and 2 assists – almost singlehandedly out-producing Fenerbahce (15 points) as Madrid took control for good. His basketball smarts, shot-making ability, tough defense and poise made Causeur the complete equal of the two EuroLeague MVPs already on his team’s roster.”

Which player who did not win the title had the best weekend?

Luca Chiabotti

“Fenerbahce’s Nicolo Melli was amazing. And not only in the championship game, when he came out with his career high of 28 points. (He was the top scorer of the Final Four, with Doncic second.) But his team effort in both games in Belgrade was great. In the semifinal, he scored only 4 points but had 6 assists and 5 steals, big numbers for a big man like he is. He was the player that Zeljko Obradovic had on the court more than any other in the Final Four. European basketball has found another unselfish and team-oriented big star.”

Dusko Savanovic

“That is definitely Nicolo Melli of Fenerbahce, just because of the great championship game he played. Fenerbahce had early foul trouble, with Jan Vesely and Ahmet Duverioglu getting two each, but Melli stepped up like never before, hitting outside shots, but also going strong to the rim to finish with dunks. He brought out his best version and finished the game with 28 points, the most in a final ever. It was not enough for Fenerbahce to win the EuroLeague title, but Melli showed great determination and proved to everyone that he is made for big games like this.”

Djorjde Matic

Nicolo Melli. If I’m right, his scoring in the final — 28 points! — is a record at championship games in the Final Four era. And those 28 points came in a very close title game, too. In that kind of game, it’s much harder to score such an amount than in a game where a team wins or loses by 20 points. Unfortunately, people may forget his huge game because almost everybody remembers only the winner. But that’s basketball, and sports in general.”

Stavros Barbarousis

“I’ll go with Fenerbahce forward Nicolo Melli! Mostly for his performance in the final, where, at times, the Italian looked like he was fighting alone against Madrid’s frontline. He managed to score 28 points, achieving a new career high in the EuroLeague but also a new record for points scored in a final, after Manu Ginobili’s 27.”

Frankie Sachs

“It is easy to forget his huge semifinal now, but Ali Muhammed‘s shooting was absolutely vital to Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul winning that game. After torching Zalgiris for 19 points in less than 12 minutes in the semis, Muhammed added 7 points and a performance index rating of 14 in 13 minutes in the championship game. That type of production was a reminder to all what kind of game-changing player a healthy Ali Muhammed is. Honorable mention goes to Mikhail Kulagin, who did not play in CSKA Moscow‘s semifinal loss to Madrid, but showed why he may be an important part of the club’s future with 14 points in 13 minutes in the third-place game.”

What was the best moment you saw at the Final Four?

Luca Chiabotti

“It’s impossible for me to choose just one. As the basketball lover that I am, I think that the best moments were all the 120 minutes played in the semifinals and in the final by four amazing teams: the technical level of the games and the players’ efforts on the court were fantastic. Every year we are crying for the loss of big European stars like Bogdanovic or Teodosic, and every year the quality of the Final Four is fantastic. Of course, Belgrade was a great host city and the fans are fantastic, but the very best came from the court.”

Dusko Savanovic

“I have to say that being a EuroLeague Final Four Ambassador, I didn’t have as much time to look around as all the other spectators. The Final Four was great and there were a lot of highlights, not just at Stark Arena, but all over Belgrade. I must say that I enjoyed every bit of it, especially being from Belgrade. We waited to host the Final Four for many years and I hope people had just as much fun as I did. I cannot really pick a single moment; there were a lot of great plays and four great games. I will have to say it was the complete package, the whole experience. That is what makes the Final Four so special, and so much better than any other basketball event!”

Djorjde Matic

“I will not write about game moments, because there were a lot of them. Rather, I will write about two moments that happened on the court, but after the championship game. First, we saw Zeljko Obradovic shaking the hand and giving a hug to congratulate every player and coaching staff member of Real Madrid. For me, that’s the beauty of sport. Then came another great moment as legendary coach Dusan Ivkovic gave the Final Four MVP trophy to Luka Doncic. One living legend of European basketball passing the flame to a player on the first step to becoming a legend showed the bright past and even brighter future of European basketball.”

Stavros Barbarousis

Zalgiris Kaunas’s celebrations after winning the third-place game against CSKA and Sarunas Jasikevicius’s tears of joy for everything he and his team achieved. The overall course of the Lithuanians deserves credit, not only for winning third place but also for how they treat basketball as a philosophy in their country. Many think that the game between the teams that lost in the semifinals is unnecessary, but Zalgiris proved how important a win is at the EuroLeague’s main event, even if it comes in the third-place game.”

Frankie Sachs

“My first thought is seeing Facu Campazzo stranded atop the rim during Real Madrid’s celebrations and Walter Tavares helping him down. There were also some big plays that didn’t matter in the end but were pretty exciting when they happened, like Kevin Pangos’s three-pointer late in the third quarter of the first semifinal, which brought Zalgiris within 2. Or Will Clyburn’s stunning block from behind on Gustavo Ayon. At the time these plays seemed huge, but are destined to be forgotten among the many big plays by the winning teams. Also, I must mention the spectacular pre-game shows and player introductions. In the end, the highlight of every Final Four is seeing the captain receive the championship trophy and hoist it up high, so I choose Felipe Reyes and Sergio Llull doing just that as this year’s best Final Four moment.”

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