The 2005 Final Four was to be held in the Russian capital and CSKA Moscow put together a super team with the sole aim of celebrating in front of its fans in May. As a result, CSKA steamrolled the competition for a perfect record in the 14-game regular season to finish atop Group C. 2004 runner-up Fortutido Bologna and Efes Pilsen had the best records in Group at 12-2, while defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv won Group B with a 10-4 mark. It was a tough race to reach the Top 16; six teams – AEK Athens, Zalgiris Kaunas, Montepaschi Siena, Scavolini Pesaro, Ulker Istanbul and Tau Ceramica Vitoria-Gasteiz –advanced in Round 14.
Top 16 race
Maccabi found its groove to go 6-0 in the Top 16 with an average margin of victory of 14.3 points. FC Barcelona put an end to CSKA’s winning streak at 17 games in Round 4 of the Top 16, but the Russian giants bounced back to win Group E at 5-1. The races to reach the playoffs from the other two groups were among the closest ever. Jaka Lakovic scored 26 points to lead Panathinaikos Athens over Fortitudo 78-55 in a do-or-die Round 6 clash in Group F. Henry Domercant netted 18 points as Efes knocked out AEK 69-62 in a win-or-go-home Group G clash. Both Fortutido and AEK missed the playoffs on tiebreakers despite 4-2 records.
This season was the first in which the playoffs were reintroduced in a best-of-three format. Three of the four series ended in sweeps. CSKA won both of its games against Ulker by double-digit margins. Tau was the only team to advance without homecourt advantage by edging Benetton Treviso 66-64. Maccabi swept Scavolini after a nail-biting 100-103 victory in Game 3 in Italy. Panathinaikos and Efes split the first two games before Lakovic spearheaded the Greens’ attack for an 84-76 victory in Game 3.
The season-long collision course that Maccabi and CSKA were on was derailed by Tau, which stunned CSKA 78-85 in the second semifinal at Olympiysky Arena. Arvydas Macijauskas led the winners with 23 points, including a shot-clock beating three-pointer that sealed the outcome down the stretch. Maccabi held up its end when Derrick Sharp came off the bench to lead six Maccabi scorers in double figures with 20 points in a 91-82 victory over Panathinaikos. Sarunas Jasikevicius dominated the championship game with 22 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists to earn Final Four MVP honors as Maccabi defeated Tau 90-78 to become the first time since Split in 1991 to repeat as EuroLeague champion.
Maccabi swingman Anthony Parker was the MVP for the season after leading the league in performance index rating with 24.9 per game. It was the first season in which the award was voted on and not based only on PIR. Parker also ranked fourth in scoring with 18.0 points and was third in three-point shooting at 47.6%. He was eighth in steals with 2.0 per game, too. Parker tallied 5.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists in starting all 24 games for Maccabi. He was MVP of the Round five times and MVP of November, too.
Joining Parker on the All-EuroLeague First Team were his Maccabi teammates Sarunas Jasikevicius and Nikola Vujcic as well as Tau Ceramica’s Arvydas Macijauskas and CSKA big man David Andersen. The second team consisted of Jaka Lakovic of Panathinaikos, Charles Smith of Scavolini, Marcus Brown of CSKA, Luis Scola of Tau and Tanoka Beard of Zalgiris. Euroleague Basketball unveiled a new expanded awards structure that season in which Dimitris Diamantidis was chosen EuroLeague Best Defender, Charles Smith won the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy and Erazem Lobek of Fortitudo was selected as EuroLeague Best Defender. Maccabi’s Pini Gershon was voted Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year award by his peers and Tau’s Jose Antonio Querejeta was Best Executive.
Mirsad Turkcan collected 21 rebounds for Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul in a 78-83 road win at Eldo Napoli in Round 6, which is the third-most ever in a single game. One week later, Chris Williams of Opel Frankfurt Skyliners tied the EuroLeague record for steals in one game when he had 9 in an 86-82 loss at CSKA Moscow. The record lasted for a little more than a year and is now tied for the third-highest tally in competition history. Gregor Fucka of FC Barcelona tied the EuroLeague record with 11 offensive rebounds in his team’s 81-79 win over Maccabi in the regular-season finale. In the playoffs, Luis Scola of Tau set a still-standing record when he made 15 of 16 two-pointers in a 59-98 rout of Benetton in Game 1 of their series. It was the most two-point shots made in a non-overtime game.
Rising stars debut
Future MVP and two-time champions Sergio Rodriguez took his first steps as a EuroLeague player that season with Estudiantes. Future EuroCup champ Carlos Suarez was also on that team. Another future EuroLeague champion, Luigi Datome, debuted that season with Montepaschi Siena. Oguz Savas, a long-time fixture of Turkish basketball with Ulker and Fenerbahce, made the first two of his 202 career EuroLeague appearances this season.
Thanks for the memories
Milan Tomic played the final few games of his stellar EuroLeague career during the regular season for Olympiacos. Real Madrid legend Alberto Herreros retired at the end of this season. Zan Tabak, a three-time EuroLeague winner with Split, also finished his career that season with Unicaja. Even though he continued to play for almost another decade, 2004-05 was the final season for Panathinaikos big man – and current CSKA assistant coach – Darryl Middleton in the EuroLeague.