There seems to be no stopping Valencia now. Another defensive record, lowest points allowed in three quarters. Remember that this team set offensive records in the semis: 92 points, the second most in a finals game, and 16 three-pointers, the most ever made in either a semis or title games. Just 24 hours later, they are setting defensive records. That's what winners are all about. Taking games of either speed, adapting to the circumstances. Valencia is on pace to shatter the defensive record in a title game. Alba has 35 points almost halfway through the final quarter. The record is 60, which Aris was held to by Dynamo in the 2006 title game. Valencia has it's high lead, 21 points, and it looks like a matter of time now.
Posted: Sunday, April 18, 22:30 CET
The last few minutes of the third quarter are looking key, as Alba gets three chances on one possession and can't make it work. It ends with Chubb putting his shoulder down to find Nielsen has stepped asiide. Travelling. Hamann got to the basket once for Alba, getting free throws. But the next time he goes, the amazing Nielsen follows step for step and swats the shot into the third row of Valencia fans. They start chanting MVP. When Marinovic hits a scoop layup and Claver knocks the ball out of bounds off the knee of Byars, it's clear that one team is getting everything right, the other almost nothing. Alba has made no dent in Valencia's dominance after halftime. It's 33-48 and just 10 minutes left until the trophy, which looks now like Valencia's.
Posted: Sunday, April 18, 22:19 CET
De Colo adds to Valencia's high lead with the first basket of the second half. McElroy gets Alba's first fastbreak basket off a block at the other end by Sekulic. But the Berliners aren't trying to run their way back into the game. Rather, Byars sets up for a triple. Time is ticking away quickly enough, however, that the 13-point difference looks huge for a team that has only 27 points so far. Great defense by Perovic on Chubb, who nonetheless gets his first basket on the next play. Alba will need him if it's going to revive itself. Head coach Luka Pavicevic goes small now, with Hamann, Jenkinis and McElroy, who all give away size to De Colo, Kelati and Claver. And Perovic rolls around Chubb for a slam. Nielsen is everywhere again, almost vaulting Hamann for a save. He ends up doing a sumersault, making Vlaencia look even bigger and more athletic.
Posted: Sunday, April 18, 22:13 CET
Alba, looking for another scorer, finds Jenkins in the corner. Marinovic is making things happen for Valencia however, getting to the lane consistently and stealing Alba's first real fastbreak opportunity. Then Sergey Lishchuk runs over Chubb for a layup. Out of an Alba timeout, Kelati pick-pockets Jenkins and flies in for a layup and the game's first double-digit lead. Lishchuk swats away Sekulic's next shot and now Nielsen gets into the act for Valencia. Alba is getting only three-point shots from Jenkins, who hits another, but the Berliners definitely need a spark. Valencia has got its own from Lishchuk, who kept up the defensive pressure that has held Alba's big men to just 4 points until Nagla hits a free throw. But there's De Colo going one-on-one to finish the half with a fade-away shot on the buzzer. From the first shot to the last and all the D in between, a brilliant half for Valencia, leading now by 22-36. Alba's total is a record low in a final game!
Posted: Sunday, April 18, 21:53 CET
If the pace is Alba's, the story is defense, and right now Valencia's is shining. Alba's 10 points in the first quarter was a title-game low, and almost 3 minutes later, the Berliners are still stuck on that total. Despite his team's shooting spree in the semis, Valencia coach Neven Spahija said his team would have to win the titlte with defense, and they putting some serious D on the floor. Claver now intercepts a pass untouched and races the other way for a layup. Ball movement is Alba's problem, and they are getting nothing inside after Adam Chubb's 28-point show in the semis. Marinovic to Thomas Kelati for three, 10-19. Alba's long drought ends with Wright to Sekulic, who tips in his own miss, but Kelati puts the moves on for a fadeaway lane jumper. Byars does him one better though with a miraculous meeting at the rim with two Valencia defenders: he shoots falling down and gets the free throw, too, at 15-21.
Posted: Sunday, April 18, 21:33 CET
Valencia is forcing mismatches to get the ball to Perovic, all 2.17 meters of him, and he gives his team a 5-8 lead. Steffan Hamann, a big influence on Alba's semifinal win, ties it up from deep. Alba has brought in Cemal Nalga, who did not play in the semi, to bang with Perovic. Two offensive fouls in a row stall Valencia, while Hamann drives for a go-ahead layup and Martinez gets whistled for a second foul in a row, and takes a seat for Marko Marinovic. De Colo sees a chance ahits a three-pointer, another lead change, while Nalga tries a tp-in but it's blocked by Pietrus. Nalga returns the favor on Pietrus on the very next play. The quarter ends 10-11 in Valencia's favor, but it looks like they won't set offensive records tonight.
Posted: Sunday, April 18, 21:20 CET
What a first basket! Claver, this season's Rising Star Trophy winner, drives from the wing across the lane for a monster slam to get the orange fans out of their seats right away. Claver was mostly silent in the semi, but if he gets going, it'll be a good sign for Valencia. After a couple fruitless possessions, Alba gets its own good signs: Derrick Byars scoring 3 from the corner and Sekulic dropping in an offensive rebound alone. Early foul trouble, however, for Dojcin, who goes off with 2 after less than 4 minutes. The pace right now is favoring Alba: long possessions, one shot, defensive rebound.
Posted: Sunday, April 18, 21:15 CET
Here we go, Eurocup fans! Two proud teams with opposing styles have tipped off and will take the measure of each other over the next 40 minutes - at least - to determine which of them will be called champion and move up to the Euroleague next season. The semifinals showed why this matchup of two types of basketball will be fascinating. Valencia was an offensive juggernaut from the start in scoring 92 points and setting two records against Panellinios. On the other hand, Alba played picture-perfect control basketball to withstand Bilbao Basket and its thousands of fans. Starters for Valencia: Nando De Colo, Rafa Martinez, Victor Claver, Matt Nielsen and Kosta Perovic. Their counterparts on Alba: Rashad Wright, Immanuel McElroy, Derrick Byars, Dragan Dojcin and Blagota Sekulic.
Posted: Sunday, April 18, 21:06 CET
Home cities behind the finalists
The transportation problems afflicting Europe this weekend are doing nothing to dampen the enthusiasm for tonight's two finalists, Alba Berlin and Power Electronics Valencia, among their faithful supporters - even those not able to make it to Vitoria, Spain for the games. Both teams will re-create the feeling of being in a crowd for the fans back home by opening the doors to their arenas so they can watch on giant video screens. Already in the semifinals, both teams did the same, and it was a quite a success. In Berlin, about 2,000 fans watched the team's semifinal victory over Bizkaia Bilbao Basket at 02 World on Saturday. In Valencia, the turnout was even bigger on shorter notice, with 3,000 fans joining the fun at La Fonteta, their home arena, as the orangemen topped Panellinios Opap in the other semifinal. Both teams are expecting even bigger crowds tonight at their respective arenas, meaning that there will be double celebrations going on - one in Vitoria and one....where?
Posted: Sunday, April 18, 19:47 CET
Rising from the ashes, some inspiring fans
It is safe to say that no one involved in the 2010 Eurocup Finals will ever forget this weekend, whether for the basketball itself - which was excellent on semifinals Saturday - or for one strange circumstance that might have proved disappointing if not for the inspirational trip to Vitoria made by a very special group of fans. That strange circumstance is, of course, the volcanic ash cloud that has kept planes from flying all over Europe. The fact that two teams from Spain made the semifinals, both relatively close to Vitoria, meant that Fernando Buesa Arena was just as full and noisy on Saturday as on a normal tournament weekend, with 7,000 or more fans cheering their teams. However, amid of seas of black-clad fans of nearby Bilbao Basket and orange-clad ones for finalist Power Electronics Valencia, a six-hour drive south, was one small but bright bouquet of people wearing canary yellow. Those were representatives of the 500 or more Alba Berlin fans who were due here this weekend, but could not fly due to the volcano ash. About 55 of them wouldn't be stopped, however, from supporting their team. They boarded a bus in Berlin late Friday afternoon and drove 26 hours under the ash cloud to be here in time on Saturday to inspire their team to a thrilling semifinals victory.
The entire Alba team spent a couple minutes after the game switching roles by offering their own applause to the yellow corner of the arena. "I'd like to congratulate my players and express my extreme admiration for our fans who sat 26 hours on a bus to come see us," Alba coach Luka Pavicevic said at the post-game press conference. "If we needed 1 percent of motivation more, they gave it to us."
Alba's players were not the only people inspired by their fans, who were given a heroes welcome at Fernando Buesa Arena when they arrived on Saturday. Host club Saski Baskonia gave the Alba fans a reception with food and drink, while team officials and Euroleague Basketball CEO Jordi Bertomeu visited with them to show appreciation for their incredible effort and devotion.
"What we always said is true, that we have the greatest fans here in Europe, and I think all these people who came on the bus from Berlin have proven that in a big way," Bertomeu said. "It also shows something else we've known, that German fans are great lovers of basketball who are spreading enjoyment for our sport around their country more and more each year."
Posted: Sunday, April 18, 17:15 CET
Raising another cup, 14 years later
Only once before tonight has a European competition trophy been lifted at Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria. It was a pleasant surprise to find a exact replica of the 1996 Saporta Cup trophy at the Eurocupbasketball.com working room, along with several vintage photos and banners. The host club of this weekend's Eurocup Finals is Sask Baskonia, whose headquarters are at Fernando Buesa Arena. In 1996, the club hosted the Saporta Cup final and managed to qualify to the title game on its own home court, downing Dynamo Moscow in the semifinals. Its opponent in the final would be PAOK, the 1994 Korac Cup winner, which thrashed Zalgiris in the best-of-three semifinals to reach the title game.
Taugres, as Saski Baskonia's team was known then, had lost the previous two Saporta Cup finals, against Union Olimpija and Benetton Treviso. It arrived at the 1996 final with a very competitive team featuring head coach Manel Comas, three-time Euroleague champ Velimir Perasovic, Pablo Laso, Marcelo Nicola and Ramon Rivas, but had lost star big man Kenny Green due to an injury. PAOK featured Predrag Stojakovic, Bane Prelevic, Efthimios Rentzias and Dean Garrett. Stojakovic and Prelevic shined early and gave PAOK a 12-point lead, 29-41, late in the first half. Rivas stepped up for Taugres, pouring in 21 first-half points to cut the difference to 44-50 at the break. Perasovic and Nicola took over in the second half and Taugres took off, using a 25-9 run to seal the outcome.
The image of team captain Nicola crying as he lifted the Saporta Cup trophy to thousands of fans here is a classic in European club competitions. Rivas led the winners with 31 points and 14 rebounds. Nicola added 19 points while Perasovic got 17 for Taugres. Prelevic led PAOK with 34 points and Stojakovic added 20. Jorge Garbajosa, who had 5 points in 10 minutes at age 18, is the only active player left from that Taugres winning team. A dream came true in this very same building 14 years ago. And another will tonight when a Eurocup champion is crowned at Buesa Arena!
Posted: Sunday, April 18, 15:45 CET
Tomasevic is MVP supporter for Valencia
One of the special guests in Vitoria this weekend brings with him memories of the first edition of the Eurocup, back when it was called the ULEB Cup. On April 24, 2003, one of the top centers of his generation, Dejan Tomasevic, led Pamesa Valencia to the first ULEB Cup trophy with a record performance of 28 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. His index rating that night, 38, remains the record for the competition's title game, while his 28 points ties for the best scoring performance.
"It was great, especially because we play at home in Valencia," Tomasevic recalls. "We knew that if we played at our level, we would win, and it was something special because it was the first time Valencia won a European trophy. Many members of my family were in the arena that night, so I wanted to make them and the Valencia fans happy. The people from the club deserved it, too. That year they made a great effort to bring in good players, and in the end, we succeeded."
Tomasevic played three years in Valencia. He then moved to Panathinaikos and won the 2007 Euroleague title with the Greens. Last season, at age 36, Tomasevic stopped playing, and though he still lives in Athens, the chance to watch his old team in the Eurocup Finals brought him to Vitoria this weekend. Here, he has been surrounded by Valencia fans who remember him as the MVP who took their team to its first European trophy.
"I am back with them now after five years away, and it's obvious that they still remember me and keep that year in a part of their hearts," Tomasevic said. "It's important to me, too, because we had three incredible years in Valencia. I hope that I and my teammates helped put the club on the big level where it is now."
Curiously enough, Power Electronics Valencia is now coached by Neven Spahija, who was on the opposing bench of Krka Novo Mesto, the Slovenian opponent of Valencia back in 2003. In tonight's final, Valencia faces Alba Berlin, whose head coach, Luka Pavicevic, is a friend of Tomasevic. Even so, Tomasevic says, he will be rooting for orange to win the title.
"In the semifinal, it was the first time I saw Alba this year, and they played great," Tomasevic said. "Their game was at a Euroleague level. It's not going to be easy for Valencia. The Alba coach is my good friend, I know how he prepares the team and he will do it well for the final. If Alba wins, it won't be a surprise, but even though Luka is my friend, on this night, of course, I'll be on the side of Valencia. When I first saw that they were in the Eurocup Finals, my first idea was to come and see Valencia winning the title.”
Posted: Sunday, April 18, 13:45 CET