Game Blog: Cologne crowns Efes in a thriller, 81-86

May 30, 2021 by Print
Game Blog: Cologne crowns Efes in a thriller, 81-86

You can cut the tension with a knife. Higgins is trying to will Barca to the finish with 2 more free throws but Micic blows by him at the other end. The season MVP had 2 points at the half and is up to 22 now. It's 76-81 going into the final minute and when Larkin gets fouled with 36 seconds left, he hits 2 more free throws. He is now 12 of 12 from the line tonight, tying the championship game record for foul shots made. His 100% accuracy is a new record in the last game of the season. Kyle Kuric makes it 81-84 with 3 of 3 free throw and 12.1 seconds remaining, giving Barcelona a chance for a steal and game-tying shot. Simon inbounds for Efes to Larkin who passes cross-court to Micic for more free throws with 7.3 seconds left. He makes both and that does it. Efes wins its first EuroLeague title ever, 81-86! The celebrations begin as Efes players hug at mid-court. It was a long time coming and the smiles are huge, none bigger than Larkin's, who had a game face all season and is, with the rest of his teammates, a first-time EuroLeague champion!

Going to the wire!

Micic takes a deep three-pointer with the shot clock winding down, swishes it and goes back on defense like he hit a shot in practice. His talent only matches his cold blood. Speaking on clutch players, Higgins drives, scores, draws the foul and ties it at 72-72. Larkin's exquisite quickness gets him the same opportunity in a crowd and he does not disappoint: Efes 72-75 with 3:45 left. Who will step up down the stretch? Davies backs down Dunston and Singleton gets a huge basket in the paint followed by a steal that Micic capitalizes on with a monster drive. Efes hanging on: 74-79 with 2:34 left.

All tied up with 5 minutes left!

Barca gets help continuing its momentum as Efes forward Adrien Moerman touches a free throw by Mirotic as it falls through while Leandro Bolmaro strikes with a jumper and Pau Gasol rejects a dunk attempt by Sanli. Barca within 62-65. Sanli has missed 2 open threes and Chris Singleton blocks Mirotic inside. Sanli recoups with an alley-oop dunk. He's playing with 4 fouls which shows you his importance to Efes. Mirotic knows that Barca needs him and fights tooth and nail for a put-back at 64-67 but Larkin scores a magical reverse at the other end. Davies returns - surprise! - from the three-point line and feeds Mirotic for a layup. It's 69-69 midway through the fourth. Anybody's game!

Barca claws closer

Kuric solved a tough situation with an outstanding three-pointer, beating the shot clock but Larkin answers at the other end. Larkin played some of the best games of his career against Barcelona, remember. Barcelona tries Gasol inside but Dunston scores in close and chases down a rebound as the lead stays at 11. Higgins with a huge block and a mid-range bank shot at the other end sparks Barca, but Micic splits the D and scoops in a one-handed layup. The Efes stars are feeling comfortable like they were not in the first half. Larkin and Micic have 16 of Efes's first 22 points in the quarter before Higgins hits 2 threes in a row, refusing to lose, but Barca is still down 54-63 when Gasol gets to the line for his first points. Mirotic follows soon with an open triple that gets the Barca bench on its feet at 58-65. A momentum changer? Just 10 minutes to a champion!

The MVP heats up

A big put-back by Bryant Dunston opens the second half, but Higgins answers from deep. Barcelona has made 3 of 14 triples to 1 of 9 for Efes. But Micic gets 3 points the hard way to put Efes up 39-44. He drives again to match the high lead so far for Efes, 39-46. Nikola Mirotic gets his first points at the foul line, which could be a good sign for Barca, but Efes gets its own good sign as Larkin crosss over and goes high off the backboard for his first field goal. He's up to 11 points. Next he drives and kicks to Micic for a three-pointer and one. Efes has raced ahead suddenly, 41-52.

Efes up at the half, 36-39

Micic came alive with heavily contested bank shot in that run, showing his EuroLeague MVP credentials, while the Efes defense holds Barcelona scoreless for more than 3 minutes. Its last field goal, by Davies, came more than 7 minutes ago. Sanli is back and immediately produces, making it a seven-point game, 29-36. Besides Pleiss, Efes is getting a big contribution off the bench from Adrien Moermann, whose fifth rebound results in a put-back to make it 31-37 after a 6-23 Efes run. Kuric comes to the rescue for Barca with a corner three at the same time that Pleiss walks off to the Efes locker room with ice wrapped around his left calf with an injury. Rodrigue Beaubois is last to the free throw line, making 1 of 2, as Efes clings to a 36-39 edge after 20 minutes. Remember the 80-point question here: Efes is 23-0 when scoring 80 points or more and Barca is 25-5 when holding opponents under 80. Watch that number!

Efes edges ahead

Simon does what he does best, score in the low post. For a 35-year-old small forward, Simon can be deadly in those situations. Beaubois steps out of bounds and Barca's Alex Abrines celebrates as if it was a game-winning shot. The game's intensity is almost unprecedented at LANXESS Arena. Gasol went back to the bench but Pleiss stays and is really productive, following a six-meter shot with a deflection. Barcelona is struggling to find the way to the basket and Mirotic is scoreless until now. Things can change, of course - remember Vassilis Spanoulis's 22-point performance in 2013, all in the second half, to win the EuroLeague crown with Olympiacos Piraeus? Larkin has put Efes ahead, 29-30. He and Micic, the MVP, have all their combined 9 points at the free throw line, but it's enough to edge Efes in front, 29-30, with 4 minutes left in the half.

Pleiss to the rescue for Efes

For the first time in this Final Four, local Cologne hero Tibor Pleiss steps on court. Coach Ergin Ataman has kept Pleiss out of action in the semis, perhaps looking for a highly-anticipated matchup against the legendary Pau Gasol. Leandro Bolmaro, who is having a career-defining Final Four, goes all the way for a three-point play that gives Barcelona the game's first double-digit lead, 25-15. Just when Efes needs something, Pleiss supplies it. His first three-pointer hangs on the rim until Adrien Moerman tips it in. After Rodrigue Beaubois gets a steal and Larkin hits a pair of free throws, Pleiss hits a triple, forcing a Barcelona timeout. Pleiss rebounds and hands off to Kruno Simon for a layup. Efes is back in it at 25-24 after a 0-9 run!

Davies, Barca's D star in first quarter

Barca center Brandon Davies had just 2 points in the semifinal, but he's the first player to double digits tonight, with 10 in the first 8 minutes. He has half of the 4 offensive rebounds that have led to 8 points so far for Barcelona and 5 rebounds overall. We already have a technical foul each on the head coaches and semifinal hero Cory Higgins hit the first three-pointer of the first 9 tries. Kyle Kuric is instant offense off the bench with 5 quick points. Pau Gasol and Leandro Bolmaro now join the Barca effort with 20 years' difference in age between them. Barca is up 22-15 so far based on its great defense.

Defense takes over

"Guys, are you going to play defense, or not!" Saras shouts to Barca's players. He uses an Instant Replay timeout to correct a few things without using a timeout. He has been there before and small details can make the difference. Davies gets Barcelona's second tip-in on the game, but it is its next few defenses we want to pay attention to. On the first one, Davies switches and takes Micic one-on-one, forcing him to take a contested eight-meter shot, which he misses. Second one, Larkin picks up an offensive foul, turnover. Third one, Claver and Mirotic force Micic to take an off-balance one-handed shot. Meanwhile, Davies gives Barcelona an 11-8 lead. Points are hard to come by, with Davies up to 7 to match Sanli, but everyone else struggling. No three-pointers in seven attempts split between the teams so far.

Sanli leading Efes early

All eyes are on Calathes, who limped heavily off the floor late in the semifinal, but is back in Barca's starting lineup with the difficult task of putting the breaks on this seasson's MVP, Vasilije Micic. Surprise started Victor Claver scores first on a big put-back and then Brandon Davies finishes a steal with a fastbreak dunk to supercharge the Barcelona bench, but Sertac Sanli matches them with a pair of inside baskets on assists from Micic. Sanli keeps it going with a three-point play and adds 1 of 2 free throws for the first Efes lead, 6-8. He played 14 seconds in the 2019 Final Four, but Sanli is showing star quality in this one!

Here we go!

The EuroLeague Championship Game presentation was simply spectacular! Absolutely amazing - the perfect intro for what should be an outstanding basketball game. Barcelona head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius starts the game with Nick Calathes, recovered in record time from an ankle injury, Cory Higgins, Victor Claver, Nikola Mirotic and Brandon Davies. Other than Calathes being healthy, Claver is the biggest surprise in Saras's starting lineup, looking for size at small forward. Ergin Ataman starts the game with Shane Larkin, Vasilije Micic, Krunoslav Simon, Chris Singleton and Sertac Sanli. Unlike in the semifinal against CSKA Moscow, Micic and Larkin team up in the starting lineup, an All-EuroLeague backcourt. The game is about to start!

Ready to rock!

Here comes the moment all Turkish Airlines EuroLeague fans have been expecting for more than two years! Anadolu Efes Istanbul takes on FC Barcelona here at LANXESS Arena. If Efes wins, the club, its head coach - Ergin Ataman - and all of its players will be EuroLeague champions for the first time. That didn't happen since 1999 when Zalgiris Kaunas lifted the trophy. There is some good news for Barcelona: Nick Calathes is out there, stretching, registered for the game, and ready to play. Barcelona lost its first five championship games in the EuroLeague but is two for two in the last game of the season since then, in 2003 and 2010. The teams are on the floor and we should have the starting lineups shortly. Get ready to crown a new EuroLeague champion - and follow the action live at the Game Blog!

The coaches speak minutes before the championship game!

Barca, Efes are a step away from #F4GLORY

The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game is tipping off soon and the champions trophy is being wheeled out to sit courtside until one deserving team can lift it later Sunday night. Several Anadolu Efes Istanbul players are warming up on the floor at Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany, among them big man Tibor Pleiss, who has the rare pleasure of competing for the highest title on the continent in his hometown. One of the players he may face is Brandon Davies, who is first out on the floor for FC Barcelona, working on his free throws. The eyes of the basketball world will fixed tonight on this singular do-or-die game for a continental title. Get ready for the culimnation of the most competitive season in elite European basketball history!

Shields closed it out for Milan

Shavon Shields was the finisher of Milan's playoff series with a career-high 34 points in do-or-die Game 5 against FC Bayern Munich and he was Milan's finisher again on Sunday. At his first Final Four, Shields scored 9 fourth-quarter points to make sure Milan left Cologne with an 83-73 victory. He scored half of his team's points in an 8-0 run to begin the fourth quarter and finished even stronger with Milan's final 5 points, including a deep three with the shot clock running down in the final seconds. On a team that relied heavily on older, experienced players, the 26-year-old Shields took another step toward being included in that group with another strong showing. He finished his maiden season in a Milan uniform with a career-high 13.8 points per game, which was second on the team.

Milan hangs on through three quarters

Milan starts in the second half with the same lineup that opened the game. There is one change in CSKA's lineup; Clyburn replacing Kurbanov. Shengelia is in his first Final Four - he couldn't play when Baskonia reached it in 2016 - and you can tell he has been dreaming of being on this stage for a long time. Lundberg draws Shields's third foul and brings CSKA as close as 42-40. Milan has over 7 minutes of foul bonus. Roll and Rodriguez each strike from downtown and CSKA needs a timeout at 49-41. Shengelia steps up with a huge left-handed dunk and dives for a steal on defense, helping CSKA tie the game, 49-49. Rodriguez gets a steal and instead of going for a layup, he feeds Hines for a dunk. With 6 assists through three quarters, maybe he knows about the Final Four assists record he can get today. Truth is, he is also now a Top 10 scorer in Final Four history, 161 points and counting. After 30 minutes, Milan leads 60-57.

The finalists are on their way!

While the third-place game is in play, Barcelona and Efes are preparing to decide the EuroLeague crown tonight in Cologne, Germany. Both teams have now left the headquarters hotel and are now on their way to Lanxess Arena, where tipoff is set for 20:30 local time. Efes is playing in its second consecutive title game after losing to CSKA Moscow in 2019. Barcelona returns to the championship game for the first time since winning it all in 2010. Every singe Efes player and head coach Ergin Ataman are looking to become first-time EuroLeague champions. The same is true for all Barcelona players except Cory Higgins and Nick Calathes, while head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius won the EuroLeague four times as a player.

Milan pulls ahead at half

CSKA's backcourt defense switched the game's momentum as Lundberg and Hilliard gave their team the extra energy it needed. Voigtmann feeds off that energy and emphatically dunks for a 23-27 CSKA lead. Milan improves its defense, drawing a couple of offensive fouls, and finds a go-to guy in Tarczewski, who scores the first 4 points in a 0-6 run that makes it 29-27. CSKA has paid a high price for its defensive aggresiveness and is now in the foul penalty. Shengelia returns to the floor and soon become the first double-digit scorer but Milan has three former CSKA players on the floor - Hines, Rodriguez, Micov - that will not give things awar. Rodriguez dishes his fourth assist, totals 54 in Final Four action, and goes past former teammate Sergio Llull (53) for second place in the all-time standings. Then he hits a three-pointer that puts him third on the all-time EuroLeague list with 495. At halftime, Milan leads 40-34.

CSKA up after a quarter in third-place game

A few key players are sitting out the third-place game. Daniel Hackett is not playing for CSKA, while Milan is without Gigi Datome and Malcolm Delaney. Sergio Rodriguez, however, is in Milan's lineup. He needs 10 assists to lead the all-time Final Four standings. Vladimir Micov, playing against his former team, is on fire the opening minutes, giving his team a 7-5 lead. Milan has seemed to bounce back better from Friday's loss but CSKA is using its usual rotation - Will Clyburn and Johannes Voigtmann came off the bench midway through the first quarter. Alexander Khomenko and Riccardo Moraschini see their first Final Four minutes - and score their first points, too. The game is highly entertaining. Seven CSKA players have scored already, and the Russian powerhouse leads 20-23 after 10 minutes.

Championship Sunday is under way

Welcome back to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four! We will start the Live Blog with the third-place game between AX Armani Exchange Milan and CSKA Moscow. Of course, it will be followed by the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game, in which FC Barcelona and Anadolu Efes Istanbul will fight for the title! Milan is its first Final Four since 1992 and wants to return home with a prestigious win, just as CSKA, which is in this game for the seventh time. We have the starting lineups! Milan starts with Michael Roll, Vladimir Micov, Shavon Shields, Zach LeDay and Kaleb Tarczewski. Iffe Lundberg, Ivan Ukhov, Nikita Kurbanov, Toko Shengelia and Joel Bolomboy feature in CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis's starting lineup.