20 Years Rewind: Fenerbahce wins its first title, 2017

May 01, 2020 by Euroleague.net Print
20 Years Rewind: Fenerbahce wins its first title, 2017

The 2016-17 season saw the launch of a bold and exciting new era for European basketball with the competition adopting a true league format for the first time. The changed format saw the continent’s top 16 teams play head to head over 30 rounds between October and April, guaranteeing a constant supply of big-name showdowns as the best went up against the best every week.

Another new introduction was the two-round week, with games taking place every day from Tuesday to Friday. The first of five such weeks was staged in late October, as Rounds 3 and 4 saw 16 games take place in 13 different cities and nine different countries in four days.

Blatt returns, Pascual on the move

The new-look season was preceded by a number of coaching changes, most notably at FC Barcelona Lassa where Xavi Pascual departed after eight years at the helm. Pascual, who joined Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens shortly after the start of the season, was replaced by former champion Georgios Bartzokas. There was also a return to Europe for another former competition winner, David Blatt, who took charge at Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul. Velimir Perasovic was another coach on the move, leaving Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz to join Anadolu Efes Istanbul.

Istanbul takes center stage

Istanbul became the EuroLeague’s undisputed capital city during the 2016-17 season. In addition to the title-deciding Final Four being staged at the Sinan Erdem Dome, there were no less than four contestant clubs from the city as Anadolu Efes, Fenerbahce and Darussafaka were joined by EuroCup winners Galatasaray Odeabank. The first of 12 Istanbul derbies in the regular season took place in Round 4, when Anadolu Efes came from behind to win at Darussafaka, 79-84, behind 12 points and 9 rebounds from Tyler Honeycutt.

Real and CSKA take flight

The season started with a bang as Real Madrid hosted Olympiacos Piraeus in a rematch of the 2015 championship game and Los Blancos made a strong opening statement by recording a comprehensive 83-65 victory as Sergio Llull recorded 22 points on 4-of-5 three-point shooting. Another notable opening round fixture saw CSKA Moscow overcome Galatasaray in a meeting of the reigning EuroLeague and EuroCup champions. Reigning MVP Nando De Colo’s 22 led the way to an 84-109 victory which would prove to be the highest points tally scored on the road by any team all season. Those wins helped propel the respective clubs to dominant campaigns as they maintained a safe distance over every other team until the end of the regular season.

Zvezda misses out in intense playoffs race

Although the top two positions were comfortably claimed by Real and CSKA, the other six playoffs places remained up for grabs throughout an absorbing season which saw 13 different teams occupy a top-eight position at some stage (only UNICS Kazan, Zalgiris Kaunas and Galatasaray failed to do so). At the end of Round 30, the unluckiest team was Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, which had been in the top half of the standings ever since Round 15 but was eventually beaten to the playoffs by Darussafaka after a final day showdown. In a winner-take-all final day matchup, Darussafaka won comfortably at home, 78-62, behind 22 points from Brad Wanamaker, to eliminate the Serbian team.

Olympiacos survives five-game thriller

Two of the playoff series were sweeps starting with Coach Zeljko Obradovic winning two games on the road at his former home arena as Fenerbahce took control over Panathinaikos before finishing the job at home in Game 3. Bogdan Bogdanovic averaged 19.3 points per game over the series. CSKA Moscow’s 3-0 triumph over Baskonia was less straightforward than that outcome suggests, as the Spanish side was beaten by just 2 points in Games 2 and 3. The reigning champ secured another Final Four berth with an 88-90 win in Vitoria-Gasteiz as Shane Larkin and Adam Hanga both had shots blocked on the final play. Regular season table topper Real Madrid had a scare in the playoffs as Darussafaka seized homecourt advantage by winning Game 2, 80-84, in the Spanish capital. But Real recovered to win both games in Istanbul and advance 3-1, as Luka Doncic recorded PIRs of 23 and 21 in the decisive road wins. The remaining series went the distance; Anadolu Efes took a 2-1 lead over Olympiacos Piraeus by winning Game 2 in Greece, 71-73, before standing strong at home in Game 3. But Olympiacos rallied to keep the series alive by overcoming an 18-6 early deficit and taking Game 4 on the road and then secured its sixth Final Four berth in nine years with a home win, 87-78, in Game 5 as Vassilis Spanoulis recorded 22 points.

The Rising Star: Luka Doncic

There was only one serious candidate for the end of season Rising Star Award and the sensational talent of Real Madrid teenager Luka Doncic was duly recognized after a season which saw him produce a string of dazzling highlight-reel plays; He recorded averages of 7.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game Other award winners were veteran UNICS Kazan shooter Keith Langford, who led the league in scoring and PIR (both 21.8 per game) to claim the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy, and Baskonia’s Adam Hanga being presented with the Best Defender Award.

Llull honored as MVP

The main individual prize also went to a Real Madrid man as Sergio Llull was named the league’s MVP, having averaged 16.5 points and 5.9 assists per game to propel his team to the top of the regular-season standings. Llull was accompanied on the All-EuroLeague First Team by Nando De Colo of CSKA Moscow, Olympiacos icon Georgios Printezis and two players from Fenerbahce: Bogdan Bogdanovic and Ekpe Udoh, who led the league in both rebounding (7.8 per game) and blocked shots (2.2 per game).

Olympiacos shocks CSKA again

The Final Four at the Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul started with a familiar sinking feeling for CSKA Moscow. The reigning champion led most of the way against Olympiacos in the opening semifinal, but 10 fourth-quarter points from Vassilis Spanoulis allowed the Reds to fight back and secure their fourth Final Four victory over CSKA in the space of six seasons, eventually winning 78-82 after a missed three-pointer attempting to win the game from Milos Teodosic with 8 seconds remaining. Olympiacos was joined in the championship game by Fenerbahce, which overpowered Real Madrid behind a colossal performance from Ekpe Udoh with 18 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 blocked shots. Udoh’s PIR of 36 was the best at a Final Four in seven years and helped his team overcome 28 points from league MVP Llull.

Fenerbahce thrills Istanbul

Roared on by a vociferous local crowd for the championship game against Olympiacos, local team Fenerbahce wasted no time in seizing the momentum as Ekpe Udoh and Jan Vesely combined for an explosive alley-oop on the game’s opening play. Olympiacos battled hard to keep it close in the first half, but an 11-2 run in the third quarter broke the game open and Fenerbahce powered home the rest of the way to seal the title, 80-64. Bogdanovic and Nikola Kalinic led the scoring with 17 points apiece but the star man was once more Udoh, who was named Final Four MVP after contributing 10 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a championship game record 5 blocked shots.

Another milestone for Obradovic

The victory saw Fenerbahce become the first Turkish team ever to become crowned champions of Europe, and also allowed legendary Coach Zeljko Obradovic to reach the milestone of nine European titles with five different clubs. Obradovic, who later become the first person to win the Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year award on three occasions, was delighted to bring joy to his team’s fans, saying: “I am very happy to be champion of Europe again. But more happy for Fenerbahce for being the champion for the first time in history. Before the Final Four it was easy to feel in all four corners of this city the Final Four. The fans here are always with us. This connection is very special."