It was a dominant regular season for Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul (25-5), which occupied first place in the standings from Round 10 all the way through until the end of the season. CSKA Moscow (24-6) was similarly strong, being positioned third or higher throughout the entire regular season and staying in second place from Round 22 onwards. The race between the two giants for top spot was effectively settled in Round 13 when Fenerbahce overturned a 15-point deficit to beat CSKA in Istanbul 79-75. Jan Vesely recorded a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds, and CSKA was held without a field goal in the last 5 minutes.
Turnaround for Efes and Barca
The season saw a remarkable change in fortunes for Anadolu Efes Istanbul. The Turkish club had finished the previous campaign at the bottom of the standings, but a flurry of summer signings soon took effect and Coach Ergin Ataman saw his team stay in the top four for 24 of the 30 regular season rounds. The backcourt combination of Shane Larkin and Vasilije Micic proved particularly potent, while Adrien Moerman was one of the league’s leading rebounders. A similar upturn in fortunes was experienced by FC Barcelona Lassa, which had missed out on the playoffs for the previous two seasons but enjoyed a resurgence under veteran Coach Svetislav Pesic to finish fifth – setting up a playoff tussle between the pair.
Drama in the playoff race
The race for the playoffs was incredibly close with just two wins separating sixth place from 12th at the end of the regular season. The last playoff place was snatched by Zalgiris Kaunas, which won its last six games to climb from 13th to eighth. KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz also scraped through despite losing three of its last four games. In contrast, there was heartache for two teams who had spent the vast majority of the season in the playoff positions but ultimately missed out after falling away in the later rounds. Olympiacos Piraeus was placed fifth in the standings as late as Round 20, but just three wins in the last 11 games saw the Reds finish ninth. A similar fate was endured by AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan, an early-season pacesetter that concluded the campaign with four straight losses and dropped to 12th.
Calathes the pass master
For the second consecutive season, Nick Calathes of Panathinaikos OPAP Athens set new competition records both in terms of assists per game (8.67) and total assists (286). The playmaker also recorded the rare feat of a triple-double. Having come close on several occasions, Calathes finally reached the three double-digits in the final round of the regular season, when he recorded 11 points, 12 rebounds and a personal-best 18 assists in a home win over Buducnost VOLI Podgorica which also wrapped up a playoffs spot. Calathes became only the second player this century to register a triple-double, along with Nikola Vujcic who did it twice for Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2005 and 2006.
Long-range shooting prevails
Reflecting a wider trend across the league, Fenerbahce recorded the fourth most accurate three-point shooting season of all-time, converting 42.79% of its shots from beyond the arc. CSKA Moscow (40.75%) and Anadolu Efes (40.57%) also ranked into the top 25 all-time, and the growing importance of shooting from long distance was further reflected in the fact that four teams (Efes, Real Madrid, Khimki Moscow Region and Milan) ranked among this century’s leaders for the most three-point conversions per game with at least 10 triples on average.
High seeds advance after early struggles
The playoffs threatened a series of upsets when Game 2 saw three visiting teams gain victories: Baskonia won at CSKA, Barcelona overcame Efes and Zalgiris topped Fenerbahce. However, the tables were soon turned as the regular season’s top two, CSKA and Fenerbahce, both won consecutive road games to clinch their respective series 3-1. By then, Real Madrid had already overcome Panathinaikos in the playoffs for the second successive season with a 3-0 sweep. The other series went down to the wire, including a remarkable Game 3 victory for Efes in Barcelona where Shane Larkin scored 30 points on 12-of-13 shooting to inspire a stunning 68-102 victory – the most points scored by any team in the playoffs since 2005. Barcelona won the next game to force a decider back in Istanbul, where an 80-71 victory gave Efes its first Final Four spot in 18 years.
Vesely honored as MVP
After playing a central role in Fenerbahce’s table-topping season, the season MVP award was handed to Jan Vesely. The center was a towering all-around presence as he averaged 12.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game. The Best Defender Award went to shot-blocker supreme Walter Tavares of Real Madrid. Goga Bitadze was named Rising Star after averaging 12.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots in 13 impressive performances for Buducnost. The All-EuroLeague First Team featured Nick Calathes, Kostas Sloukas and Vesely of Fenerbahce, Will Clyburn of CSKA and Brandon Davies of Zalgiris.
Prolific James takes Top Scorer Trophy
Although his Milan team just missed out on the playoffs, it was an outstanding season for Mike James. The dynamic guard, in his fifth EuroLeague season, took the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy as he led the league in both scoring (19.8 points per game) and PIR (20.2 per game), finishing just above Nikola Milutinov of Olympiacos in the latter category. James was also named to the All-EuroLeague Second Team alongside Best Defender Walter Tavares of Real, Nando De Colo of CSKA, Vasilije Micic of Anadolu Efes Istanbul and Victor Poirier of KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Guards star in high-scoring semis
The climax to the season was staged at Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria-Gasteiz and got underway with the first-ever Final Four meeting between two Turkish teams. Efes used its stellar backcourt to comfortably overcome Fenerbahce, with Shane Larkin scoring 30 points and Vasilije Micic adding 25 in a 92-73 victory. Larkin’s PIR of 43 was the best ever at a Final Four. The second semi saw CSKA Moscow fall behind by 14 points in the third quarter against Real Madrid, but Nando De Colo stepped up with 10 points in the final quarter and CSKA finished the game on a 13-5 run to triumph 95-90. Sergio Rodriguez also came up big, scoring 23 points against his former club.
CSKA stays strong for its eighth crown
The championship game was a well-balanced tussle that saw CSKA dominate the first quarter before Efes controlled the second, making it 44-42 to the Muscovites at halftime. The outcome was still in the balance midway through the fourth quarter before a 6-0 run for CSKA featuring 4 points from Nando De Colo established a double-digit lead. Efes fought back to a 4-point deficit inside the final 2 minutes, but CSKA used strong defense and accurate free throw shooting to seal the outcome and clinch its eighth continental crown with a 91-83 victory. Will Clyburn played through an injury to lead his team with 20 points and 5 rebounds and was rewarded with the Final Four MVP award. Shane Larkin’s 29 points in defeat were the highest total in championship game history.
Hines joins an elite group
The title triumph saw CSKA big man Kyle Hines join an elite group by winning his fourth EuroLeague crown, a feat achieved by only 14 other players in European basketball history. His coach Dimitris Itoudis led the tributes to Hines, emotionally stating: “He is a living example, a living legend. He’s a guy that I not only admire, I cannot express my gratitude. The way he treats all this group, united in the locker room, when they’ve spent a lot of hours – this man is my right hand, my left hand, my stomach, my heart.”