In the first meeting ever between them, PBC Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar of Russia and Uxue Bilbao Basket of Spain will face off at RTL Spiroudome in Charleroi, Belgium in the Eurocup Final for the first international trophy for either team and, with it, a pass to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague next season. Bilbao reaches the final with an overall record of 13-3, the best in the Eurocup this season, while Lokomotiv is right behind, having won 12 of its 16 games.
The two sides enter this do-or-die battle having compiled some startlingly similar statistics over the course of the season. Lokomotiv is ranked first overall among all Eurocup teams with an average performance index rating (PIR) of 93.1 PIR, while Bilbao ranked third with 91.9. On scoring, they are virtually tied, with Lokomotiv having put up 81.9 points per game compared to Bilbao's 81.8. Add to this similarly close figures for rebounding and the final shapes as very even on paper before Saturday night's tipoff.
Five former Euroleague champions will take part in this final Eurocup game of the campaign: Nick Calathes, Aleksey Savrasenko, Aleks Maric are the former title-holders for Lokomotiv, while Nikos Zisis and Roger Grimau of Bilbao also won Euroleague trophies. For the Spanish side, three players also have fond memories of Charleroi, as Axel Hervelle, Raul Lopez and Alex Mumbru were part of Real Madrid's championship team in the Belgian city back in 2007, when the competition was called the ULEB Cup. For Lokomotiv the fond memories of Charleroi are limited to one player, Simas Jasaitis, who lifted the ULEB Cup trophy with Lietuvos Rytas back in 2005.
There is also winning experience on the sidelines for one of the finalists. Head coach Evgeny Pashutin of Lokomotiv will look to lead his new team to the same title he won with Unics Kazan of Russia in 2011. On the other sideline for Bilbao is experienced mastermind Fotis Katsikaris, this season's Eurocup Coach of the Year.
In the backcourt, newly crowned Eurocup MVP Calathes and Mantas Kalnietis will use their scoring, passing and athleticism for Lokomotiv, taking on the experienced Bilbao playmaking duo of Zisis and Lopez, who are experts at dictating the tempo and timely shooting. Both teams boast elite sharpshooters on the wings, with Jasaitis having been MVP of the Week twice in the last month, while Kostas Vasileiadis was named to the All-Eurocup First Team in part thanks to his penchant for buzzer-beating shots.
In the paint, there will be a huge fight to control the boards, pitting Maric, Derrick Brown, and Richard Hendrix on Lokomotiv's side against All-Eurocup First Team selection Lamont Hamilton, Adrien Moerman and Hervelle for Bilbao
On the bench, experienced point guard Sergey Bykov, scoring ace Jimmy Baron and veteran center Savrasenko will be the reinforcements for the team from Krasnodar, while defensive stopper Grimau, shooting ace Fran Pilepic and big man Milovan Rakovic will fuel Bilbao's reinforcements.
The game will be the culmination of a season's worth of great efforts up and down both lineups, but the team that can put it all together one more time will earn the right to be called 2013 Eurocup champion.