Turkish Airlines EuroLeague: Fenerbahce wins historic title

Turkish Airlines EuroLeague

The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague came to a triumphant close on Sunday as Fenerbahce Istanbul won the Final Four to become the 2017 champion. It was a historic rewriting of the record books for the club as it lifted the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague trophy for the first ever time. In doing so, Fenerbahce also became the first Turkish club to hold aloft the greatest prize in European Basketball.

A few things will live long in the memory from 2017’s final, but chief among them will be how comfortable Fenerbahce looked in victory. 80-64 against Olympiacos in the showpiece game is no mean feat. After all, the Greek club is a three-time former Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champ and had the slickest defence in this year’s competition.

Fenerbahce simply looked unphased, despite the considerable pressure involved. It is worth remembering that the Final Four was held in Istanbul this season, at Fener’s old Sinan Erdem Dome stomping ground. While the comforts of home can be a huge help to some teams, for others it provides unwanted pressure. Luckily for Fenerbahce, Istanbul proved to be a driving force behind the success.

This victory also had something for the romantic. It is, of course, amazing when a new club becomes the EuroLeague champion, but for Fenerbahce it feels more like fulfilment of recent destiny. Over the last few years, the club has reorganized and admittedly spent big in pursuit of a place at the top of European hoops.

That place is only really guaranteed by lifting the EuroLeague. In recent years Fenerbahce has gone close, but ultimately failed (two Final Four’s in the last two seasons, one runner-up). By winning the competition the club has truly arrived at the level of European giants like CSKA Moscow, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Panathinaikos, and indeed Olympiacos.

As for Olympiacos, the Piraeus club will obviously be terribly disappointed. After winning the trophy three times previously, this was a chance to add another. However, after missing the Final Four this season, few believed the team could break through Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow. By a willingness to win ugly and get mean in defence, the Greek giant will know there are more chances on the horizon.

Before getting to the details of the game, it is worth noting that both finalists (and indeed the other Final Four clubs CSKA and Real Madrid) are all favourites in pursuit to win their domestic leagues.

Fenerbahce Istanbul vs. Olympiacos Piraeus, 80-64

After Fener downed Real Madrid and Olympiacos saw off CSKA Moscow, we headed into this Turkish Airlines EuroLeague final truly with the fate of the trophy undecided. Both teams were more than capable of winning the game.

As it was, with the Istanbul crowd, the hosts raced from the tip off and drained 26 first quarter points, while Olympiacos could manage just 18 points. The Greek giant steadied in the second act and started implementing its low-scoring big defensive game, making a 13-16 run to cut the lead to 39-34 at halftime. The momentum swung back to Fenerbahce in the third act as the players drained 21 points to extend to 60-48 through thirty minutes. In the make or break deciding quarter, Fenerbahce dealt superbly with the pressure and any Olympiacos threats to secure the title.

Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nikola Kalinic secured 17 points and 5 rebounds each, while Luigi Datome dropped 11 points and Ekpe Udoh secured 10 points and 9 boards. By adding 4 assists, Udoh capped an excellent Final Four by winning the MVP award.

Khem Birch scored 14 points for an Olympiacos team that was undoubtedly hurt by the loss of playmaker and chief offensive threat Vassilis Spanoulis after just over a minute on the hardwood.

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