Final Four Semifinals: Chances to make history
After six long months of battles on basketball floors across the continent, four teams arrive to Berlin, each knowing they are only two wins away from winning the Euroleague crown. With spots in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Championship Game at stake, the ultimate excitement of Friday semifinals action starts with CSKA Moscow clashing against the fellow Russian side Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, before Fenerbahce Istanbul faces Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz.
Semifinal A: Fenerbahce Istanbul vs. Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz
At the Final Four for the second consecutive season, Fenerbahce Istanbul faces Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz, which has reached the Final Four for the first time since 2008. Both sides come to Berlin aiming to make history. Fenerbahce is not only in search of its first Euroleague crown, but its first championship game appearance. Meanwhile, Laboral has twice been a win away from the Euroleague title – in 2001 it lost Game 5 of the best-of-five final series against Kinder Bologna, and in 2005 it lost Final Four Championship Game in Moscow against Maccabi Tel Aviv. This is the fifth Final Four appearance for Laboral and the second time with head coach Velimir Perasovic on the bench. He took this same club to the Final Four in 2006, but the only player on his roster with previous Final Four experience is Ioannis Bourousis, who won it all last season with Real Madrid. On the other hand, Fenerbahce head coach Zeljko Obradovic is an eight-time Euroleague trophy winner, and this is his 16th Final Four appearance - including 15 as a head coach – which is more than any player, coach or club since 1988, while he has three former Euroleague champs on the roster: Ricky Hickman, Kostas Sloukas and Pero Antic. Fenerbahce’s defense held opponents to 72.2 points per game, which was second-lowest in the league, and to a league-low 30.9% three-point shooting this season. Fenerbahce’s defense was also the best in holding opponents to 44.4% true shooting percentage, with Laboral ranked second in that category (45.1%). Laboral forced its opposition to 32.7% shooting for three-points and 47.9% on two-point accuracy – both marks were second-lowest in Euroleague this season – and is also the best rebounding team in the competition (37.9 rpg.).
Semifinal B: CSKA Moscow vs. Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar
It's the third time CSKA Moscow and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar square off this season, but the first time in the Euroleague. This is a clash of the Euroleague's best offense pitted against the competition's best defense. CSKA averaged 90.7 points per game, which is not only the highest average this season, but the third best this century. Lokomotiv allowed a Euroleague-low 70.5 points per game so far this season. After the two sides split road wins during the VTB United League season, this clash on a neutral floor at Mercedes Benz Arena will send the winner within a step of lifting the Euroleague trophy. CSKA has six continental titles to its name, the last of which came in 2008, while for Lokomotiv this is the first ever trip to the Final Four. Lokomotiv averaged 76.8 points on offense this season, which is almost 14 below CSKA’s average, but its stellar defense held opponents below 65 points nine times this campaign, and Lokomotiv also forced more turnovers (14.3 per game) and made more steals (7.5 spg.) than any of the four teams in Berlin. CSKA arrives in Berlin tied for the best record in the Euroleague this season at 22-5 and features the competition’s leading scorer, Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winner Nando De Colo, and the Best Defender Trophy winner Kyle Hines. CSKA also ranks first in index rating (106.7), assists (19.7 apg.), two-point shooting (57.6%), three-point shooting (42.3%), and threes made per game (10).