The semifinal games on Friday night saw 2016 Turkish Airlines Euro-league’s two best teams reach the finals. Fenerbahce Istanbul and CSKA Moscow fully justified their performances in the last seven months, beginning with regular season in October 2015. Playing at Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Arena on May 13, the two teams won their matches in contrasting styles to set up the title clash against each other on May 15. In the first match CSKA defeated Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar 88-81, while in the second; Fenerbahce Istanbul scored an extra-time 88-77 victory over Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz and earned the honor of becoming the first Turkish club ever to enter the Euro-league final. Now CSKA Moscow will aim for their 7th Euro-league title, while Fenerbahce Istanbul will do their utmost to win the first-ever continental crown for their country.
In the first match, CSKA’s Euroleague MVP Nando De Colo fittingly began the scoring against Lokomotiv and led the initial charge. In less than 1½ minutes, CSKA led 7-0 and left Lokomotiv scoreless for more than 3 minutes. Finally, it was Malcolm Delaney, who scored the first points for Lokomotiv. But the quarter was entirely dominated by CSKA despite Lokomotiv coming close at 13-9. Victor Khryapa’s close-range point and brilliance of De Colo gave a huge 23-12 cushion for CSKA Moscow as the first quarter ended. Lokomotiv came back strongly in second quarter with Dontaye Draper knocking down a triple and a jumper to close the gap. Despite a three-pointer by CSKA’s Vorontsevich, Lokomotiv responded valiantly through Ryan Broekhoff’s triple. Another triple from Lokomotiv’s Matt Janning, Chris Singleton’s fine runner and Anthony Randolph’s 4 points brought the score to 47-37 by halftime.
After halftime, it was De Colo again, who opened the scoring. Helped by a triple from Vorontsevich, CSKA took their lead to 52-37. However, Lokomotiv didn’t give up. Delaney’s consecutive three-pointers got the deficit back to single digits before a pair of free throws from Victor Claver made the score 52-45. However, Milos Teodosic and De Colo ensured a 13-point edge for CSKA. The scoring swung from one side to another and Broekhoff’s free throw brought the score to 58-51. For a while, it looked like a battle between De Colo and Delaney. De Colo’s 2 free throws were nullified by Delaney’s great basket from behind the 6.75-meter arc and he scored all threes to take Lokomotiv within 60-54. But De Colo was relentless and despite Randolph’s dunk, CSKA ended the third quarter at 68-59. The last quarter began with Fridzon and Broekhoff trading triples but De Colo’s foul shots, Khryapa’s jumper and another De Colo triple made it 78-62 for CSKA. With 5 minutes remaining, Draper’s triple reduced the deficit to 13. In a furious bout of scoring, Khryapa drove a two-handed slam, Delaney hit a triple, Draper scored from a jumper and Delaney scored 3 to make it a 7-point game. Singleton and Delaney brought the score to 84-79 with 35 seconds left. Matt Janning scored a layup after Teodosic’s free throws but there was De Colo once again, who sealed the win with free throws and took CSKA to the final.
The second semifinal between Fenerbahce Istanbul and Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz was a more dramatic contest, where result came only after overtime. The game’s hero was Fenerbahce’s Bogdan Bogdanovic, who scored 9 out of his 18 points in the extra period. In the first quarter, Fenerbahce scored the first 13 points of the game through Ekpe Udoh, Luigi Datome, Bobby Dixon and Pero Antic. Adam Hanga’s baseline dunk brought Laboral’s first points after which, Ioannis Bourousis, Kim Tilie, and Darium Adams combined to rally and brought the scores to 15-13. However, Bogdanovic answered with a three-pointer before Ricky Hickman’s driving layup extended the margin. There were scores from Kostas Sloukas and Jan Vesely that gave Fenerbahce a 23-15 first quarter lead. In second quarter, Laboral reversed the trend with a dominant play led by Bourousis’ three-pointer and some close range shots. In between, Vesely and Bogdanovic brought the score to 30-24. Darius Adams was outstanding for Laboral and he got scoring help for Tillie and Bourousis as halftime ended with Fenerbahce having a narrow 41-40 lead.
After the break, Hanga’s fast-break layup took Laboral ahead for the first time in the game. However, Antic managed to reverse the lead in Fenerbahce’s favor with a triple. But very soon, Hanga restored the lead for Laboral with a three-pointer. There were 5 lead changes in this wildly swinging quarter, which ended with Laboral going in front 57-55. Laboral carried the momentum into fourth quarter and led 62-55 with Bourousis scoring twice. Although, Udoh momentarily snapped Laboral’s 8-0 run, Bourousis was unstoppable. He scored from a layup and Mike James added from a jumper and Laboral led 66-59. With less than 5 minutes remaining, Fenerbahce made a turnaround, when Vesely scored 6 points in a row. After Laboral took a timeout, Adams scored from a layup but both sides stepped up their defending and no baskets could be scored. After Tillie scored from a pair of foul shots, Sloukas found the layup for Fenerbahce and Laboral had a 4-point margin with 60 seconds remaining. Fenerbahce came back with Datome’s three and after Adams and Sloukas split free throws, the game was tied at 72-72 as the buzzer went off.
The overtime belonged completely to Bogdanovic, who opened it with a triple. Although Hanga countered with a layup, Bogdanovic and Udoh took Fenerbahce’s lead to 79-74. Unluckily for Laboral, Bourousis missed 2 foul shots and Laboral couldn’t counter the charge of a marauding Bogdanovic, who restored the 9-point margin, before a corner triple from Sloukas brought a historic 88-77 victory for Fenerbahce.
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