Dynamo Moscow is the 2006 ULEB Cup champion! Dynamo clinched the first-ever European title in the club's 83-year history by downing Dynamo Moscow 60-73 in the ULEB Cup Final in front of a sellout crowd of 6,300 at the Spiroudome in Charleroi, Belgium. Dynamo thrived amid an incredible basketball atmosphere created by a majority of Aris fans thanks to an outstanding Ruben Douglas, who led the winners and earned MVP honors with 17 points. Shooting in the second half at a basket whose background was a sea of Aris yellow and black, Dynamo showed incredible poise and control. Bojan Popovic played a key role off the bench with 17 points on 12 of 12 free throws. Mire Chatman had 15 points on 9 of 10 free throws, Lazaros Papadopoulos posted a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds while Antonios Fotsis also grabbed 12 rebounds for Dynamo. Popovic had 11 points in the final 5 minutes of the second quarter to help Dynamo to get a 28-37 halftime lead. Aris rallied and got its last lead at 45-44, but Dynamo found a go-to guy in Papadopoulos, who scored 10 points in a game-breaking 6-19 run which sealed the win, 51-63, with 4 minutes to go. As such, Dynamo lifted the trophy in style, sweeping all seven games of the elimination rounds, a first in the four-year history of the competition. In its only previous final, Dynamo had lost to another Greek team, AEK, in the 1968 Cup Winners' Cup. Aris lost a European final for the first time after three previous victories: in the 1993 Saporta Cup, the 1997 Korac Cup and the 2003 FIBA Champions Cup. Despite its unprecedented fan support, Aris put a bitter end of its otherwise fantastic ULEB Cup season. Terrell Castle led Aris with 17 points while Ryan Stack and Giorgios Sigalas each had 10. Dynamo coach Dusan Ivkovic, who had coached Aris in the early 1980s, added to his list of honors with his fifth continental club trophy, having previously won the 1997 Euroleague with Olympiacos, the 1979 Korac Cup with Partizan, and back-to-back Saporta Cup title with AEK in 1999 and 2000. Dynamo big men Lazaros Papadopoulos and Antonios Fotsis become the first-ever players to have won both the Euroleague and the ULEB Cup titles, having both taken the top European title in 2002.
Aris coach Andrea Mazzon surprised everyone by placing center Dimitrios Charitopoulos in the starting five in order to guard Papadopoulos, his first ULEB Cup start since late December. Dynamo won the opening tip and both teams missed their opening shots until Chatman fired in a corner triple for a 0-3 lead. Sigalas immediately answered from downtown while Douglas and Stack joined the three-point festival to tie the game at 6-6. Padius ran court to dunk it off a steal to give Aris its first lead, while Stack capped a 7-0 run with a put-back layup to give his team a 10-6 lead after 3 minutes. Douglas surprised the Aris defense with a dunk, as Dynamo finally managed to control the defensive rebound. Stack picked up his second foul and was replaced by Wilkinson. Sigalas found space for an uncontested layup, but Aris entered the foul bonus midway through this period. Sigalas kept pacing Aris with a left-handed jump hook, forcing a Dynamo timeout at 14-10. Brewer stepped on court after the timeout but Douglas stepped up with his second triple which Chatman followed with free throws for a 14-15 Dynamo edge. Castle dunked it in transition but Domani beat the shot clock with a three-pointer to keep Dynamo in charge, 16-18. Aris struggled to score and coach Mazzon called a much-needed timeout. Wilkinson tied the game with a dunk of an inbound pass, but a free throw by Papadopoulos allowed Dynamo to get a 18-19 lead at the end of an intense first quarter.
Just in the game, Corey Brewer found Michael Wilkinson for a five-meter baseline jumper, as Aris dramatically improved its defense. Brewer was fouled while attempting a triple and made 2 of 3 for a 22-19 edge for Aris. The game turned into a defensive battle and Dynamo made the most out of it. Chatman made free throws while Douglas intimidated Padius at the other end. Dynamo kept missing open shots, however, until Douglas fired in another triple to put Dynamo back in charge, 22-24, the sixth lead change of the change in 14 minutes. Aris could now find answers in offense, with Castle having troubles against Bojan Popovic, back on court for the first time since late in the ULEB Cup regular season. Castle finally drew a couple of fouls and hit 3 of 4 free throws to give Aris a 25-24 edge. Popovic took revenge with a triple from the top of the key, Dynamo's sixth in 10 attempts so fat, but Castle answered from downtown to keep Aris ahead, 28-27. Popovic had the final word in this head-to-head battle with 4 of 4 free throws for yet another lead changed at 28-31. Dynamo had hit 1 of 13 two-pointers up to this point, while Aris called timeout to fix its offense, but its opponents came back on court with the right mentality. Dmitry Domani dunked it off a midcourt steal, Fedor Likolitov had a big block on Alexander Koul while Popovic hit 2 more from the line which he followed with a jumper to cap a 0-10 run that put Dynamo in charge, 28-37, at halftime.
Dynamo tried twin playmakers with Chatman and Popovic right after the break. Stack broke the ice with a five-meter jumper which he followed with a big triple from the left wing to bring Aris within 33-37. Charitopoulos fouled out right after that, but Dynamo kept struggling in offense and even committed a 24-second violation. Castle found space for a short jumper to cap a 7-0 run, as all Aris fans in the standings kept cheering for their team. Douglas stepped up with a five-meter jumper but Dynamo had already entered the foul bonus with more than 6 minutes to go in this period. Castle made free throws and fed Wilkinson for an easy layup which tied the game, 39-39. Dynamo called timeout but Aris now had its momentum going. Sigalas came off a screen to hit a triple in front of his defender, Domani, which gave Aris a 42-39 lead. Castle picked up his fourth foul and immediately returned to the bench, allowing Dynamo to recover a bit. Koubrakov stepped up with a seven-meter three but Dynamo also faced foul trouble once Douglas committed his third foul. Koubrakov fed Fotsis for a monster dunk which Padius erased with an acrobatic layup in the other end. Aris kept trying to found its rhythm without Castle on court and had already called timeout to set up its offense. A free throw by Wilkinson gave Aris a 45-44 lead but Papadopoulos finally appeared with a power layup. Dynamo had improved its defense off the Aris timeout and it paid off in the final 2 minutes of this period. Fotsis fed Papadopoulos for another easy basket which fixed the score at 45-48 after 30 minutes.
Dynamo kept looking for Papadopoulos early in the fourth quarter, as he finished a third-chance offense with a short jumper which gave his team a 45-50 lead. Aris called timeout to prevent Dynamo from powering the offensive board and opted to play with a small lineup featuring Vladimir Petrovic at the power forward spot, trying to bring Papadopoulos out of the key while taking Stack one-on-one. Douglas hit free throws on Stack's fourth foul but Petrovic answered from downtown to bring Aris within 48-52. Dynamo tried to use long possessions with outstanding shot selection with Papadopoulos as its big reference in offense. He kept on delivering with a layup-plus-foul to keep his team fully in charge, 48-55. Castle kept Aris into the game with a big triple but Chatman matched it with one corner shot from beyond the arc. Wilkinson fouled out midway through the final period while Dynamo kept shining in offense. Douglas fired in a big jumper while Dynamo improved its aggressivity once Aris entered the foul bonus. Free throws by Papadopoulos and Chatman gave Dynamo its biggest lead so far, 51-63, with under 4 minutes to go. Aris committed three consecutive turnovers, as each and every of its many fans in the standings knew it was the beginning of the end for their team. Padius scored in penetration and Brewer added a three-point play - his first basket of the game - to give Aris some hope at 56-63. It didn't last long, as Fotsis followed free throws with an outstanding block on Padius. Popovic hit foul shots to seal the outcome with under 2 minutes to go, as all Dynamo players and fans in the standings started to celebrate that their team was the ULEB Cup champion and had just written a new page in European basketball history!
Tuesday, April 11, 2006