On this day in 2014, Valencia took control of the EuroCup Finals with a convincing Game 1 victory over UNICS Kazan behind a dominant Justin Doellman.
The 2014 7DAYS EuroCup Finals was the first between former EuroCup champions. UNICS Kazan, which had lifted the trophy in 2011, had the home-court advantage in the two-game, total-points series and featured that season's MVP, Andrew Goudelock. Valencia Basket, a champion in 2003 and 2010, had won three series without the homecourt advantage - against Khimki Moscow Region, ALBA Berlin and Nizhny Novogorod, successively - and hosted the first leg at La Fonteta. There was a sellout crowd despite the early tip-off, 18:30 CET on a Thursday on a special sports night in the city. Later on that day, Valencia FC hosted Sevilla FC in the second leg of the Europa League semifinals in football.
Valencia starts strong, rolls
Valencia, in its fourth Eurocup Finals, made the most out of its experience and took a big lead very early in the first leg of the finals. Justin Doellman scored 12 first-quarter points and the hosts led 27-12 lead after 10 minutes. Three consecutive triples - by Pau Ribas, Pablo Aguilar and Oliver Lafayette - at the start of the second opened a 24-point cushion. Vladimir Veremeenko and Goudelock rescued UNICS, but Doellman and Rafa Martinez joined the three-point shootout to keep the hosts comfortably ahead in the series, 49-27, at halftime. Little changed in the third quarter as Bojan Dubljevic and an outstanding Doellman dominated the game and a three-pointer by Ribas gave Valencia a 70-37 lead.
UNICS stays alive
Series over? Well, not really. Any other team would have waved a white flag but this was the EuroCup Finals and UNICS fought back. Chuck Eidson buried a triple and Nikita Kurbanov dunked to make it 74-44 at the end of the quarter. Ribas scored twice early in the fourth quarter but he didn't find much help. UNICS turned its great defense into offense through Eidson and an inspired Veremeenko, who was effective in the paint. Goudelock found his scoring rhythm, too, helping UNICS finish the game with a 0-12 run. Luke Harangody followed a put-back layup with a dunk off a steal to fix the final score at 80-67. Valencia took a nice lead in the series, but UNICS felt relieved and ready to keep fighting in Game 2 at Basket-Hall Kazan, Russia.
About the game
Valencia took a 13-point lead to the second leg in Kazan. Doellman led the winners with 28 points on 8-of-11 two-point shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and a PIR of 35. It is the third-highest PIR ever by any player in a EuroCup Finals game; Valencia players Dejan Tomasevic in the second leg of the 2003 finals and Nik Caner-Medley in the 2012 championship game share the record with PIRs of 38. Ribas added 14 points and Dubljevic scored 12 for Valencia. Veremeenko paced UNICS with 17 points, Harangody had 14 and Eidson posted 10 points and 11 rebounds. Valencia had better shooting percentages (61.8% 2FG, 32% 3FG, 82.4% FT) than UNICS (55.2% 2FG, 21.7% 3FG, 69% FT) from all distances and a fantastic crowd was the hosts' X-factor.
What happened next
Valencia never trailed in beating UNICS Kazan 73-85 in Game 2 of the series to sweep the series with an aggregate score of 140-165. Doellman dominated again, getting 26 points, 5 assists, 4 steals and a PIR of 34 to be chosen as the 2014 EuroCup Finals MVP. Some 400 Valencia fans enjoyed a one-of-a-kind celebration, as the team invited them to be with the players on the court right after lifting the trophy. After the on-court celebration, the party continued on the charter flight Valencia hired for the occasion. While Valencia would win another EuroCup title in 2019, UNICS has not returned to the finals since then. Not everything was perfect for Valencia teams in European competitions in 2014, though. Sevilla eliminated Valencia on a last-minute goal in injury time.