On the eve of the first Euroleague playoffs in the new league format, let’s take a trip into the archives for some trapezoidal back story and retro fun. There is so much prior entanglement between this year’s protagonists, whether a past matchup between clubs, or head coaches clashing in a past life.
CSKA Moscow vs Baskonia
In the 2005 Final Four in Moscow, Tau Ceramica upset CSKA 85-78 in the semi-final. Arvydas Macijauskas top scored with 23 points, Jose Calderon chipped in with 13, Pablo Prigioni gave out five assists – not forgetting Andy Betts representing Britain in the Final Four, the last player to do so.
JR Holden put up 20 in a losing effort for Dusan Ivkovic’s CSKA, with 12 for Marcus Brown. This was TAU’s golden era but they couldn’t quite get it done in the final against Maccabi Tel Aviv.
CSKA got their revenge three years later in Madrid, knocking TAU out of final contention, 83-79. Ramunas Siskauskas and David Andersen top scored for the victors, while TAU led by Igor Rakocevic and Tiago Splitter stumbled in the Final Four for the four year in a row.
It was hard not to remember that run of ‘nearly but not quite’ as Baskonia, now shorn of the iconic Tau Ceramica identity, just missed out on making a surprise visit to the Final in Berlin last May. Now they have one of their historical nemeses in the way of an even bigger shock return to the big show.
Panathinaikos vs Fenerbahce
These two have never matched up in Euroleague playoffs, but their head coaches know each other very well indeed. Current Panathinaikos chief Xavi Pascual took his Barcelona into the 2011 series with Zeljko Obradovic’s PAO with homecourt advantage. Not to mention the Catalan club was the reigning champion, with a late-prime Juan Carlos Navarro, Ricky Rubio in his final season in Europe and the core of the team that won the title in Paris a year earlier. The Greens were, it turned out, en route to their fifth Euroleague crown under Zoc, the sixth overall.
This series saw the emergence of a young Nick Calathes – back when he had hair – alongside the legend Dimitris Diamantidis, as the Greens’ relentless defense in one of the most physically punishing series in recent memory made the difference.
Barcelona took Game 1 at home, before PAO broke serve in Game 2, coming back from 16 points down to take the split, behind 17 points from Diamantidis. Back at OAKA, Obradovic’s squad finished the job, taking the series 3-1.
By the way, 20,000+? I’d take the over…
Olympiacos vs Anadolu Efes
As we mentioned in our Playoff Preview Podcast Part 2, these two matched up in 2013, in a series that went all five games. It took a fourth quarter fightback in the decider at Peace and Friendship for the defending champions Olympiacos to make it to back to back Final Fours. Of course they made it two in two in London, with another shock-and-awe comeback over Real Madrid.
Going further back into history, it only seems fair to show one where Efes Pilsen (as they were) came out on top. Merely a Regular Season game back in 2004/05, but an emphatic 110-59 victory. Henry Domercant, Willie Solomon and Nikola Prkacin led Oktay Mahmuti’s Efes (not forgetting friend-of-ELA Ermal Kuqo). Efes Pilsen made it to the playoffs that year, eventually losing to Panathinaikos. It wasn’t a classic era in Piraeus, with the Reds bowing out of the Regular Season at 4-10.
Real Madrid vs Darüşşafaka Doğuş
Darüşşafaka SK played in the Korac, Saporta and ULEB Cups in the early 2000s, before the recent Doğuş-group backed incarnation made its Euroleague debut last season. But of course, current Daçka head coach David Blatt knows a little something about Pablo Laso’s Real Madrid, crowning themselves Euroleague champions in 2014 in Milano. As if the semi-final victory over CSKA Moscow wasn’t dramatic enough, the overtime win in the final was one of the biggest championship upsets in recent memory.
Blatt’s Maccabi played virtually a four-guard lineup at times, and threw the high-octane Madrid offense out of rhythm with a crazy mix of match-up zone defenses. He might need to delve into that bag of tricks again this season to stop another high-powered attacking team led by Laso.
Why not share your memories of these titanic battles in the comments on on Twitter? ELA only goes back so far in Euro hoops history, so I’m sure there are some deep-dive recollections we have missed.
Rob Scott | @robscott33