On this day in 2008, CSKA Moscow won the EuroLeague for the second time in three seasons when it defeated Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv in the championship game in Madrid.
CSKA's path to the championship game
CSKA and Maccabi had very different paths to the championship game. CSKA, the EuroLeague runner-up the season before, tied for the best record in the regular season (12-2) and cruised in the Top 16, clinching first place with a round to spare. A loss at home in Game 1 of the best-of-three playoffs against Olympiacos Piraeus proved but a speed bump as CSKA rebounded to win Game 2 in Greece and dominated the decider 81-56 in the Russian capital. The Russian champs had to sweat before defeating Tau Ceramica Vitoria-Gasteiz 79-83 in the semifinal behind 16 points each from Ramunas Siskauskas and David Andersen. Tau led early in the fourth quarter, but Theo Papaloukas scored twice in a 0-10 CSKA charge that turned the game around. Siskauskas was named EuroLeague MVP in his first season with the club. He was joined on the All-EuroLeague First Team by Trajan Langdon and Theo Papaloukas was featured on the second team.
Maccabi's path to the championship game
Maccabi won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005 and fell to CSKA in the championship game in 2006, but missed the Final Four in 2007. Young Oded Kattash was handed the reins as head coach with a new-look roster that had very little in common with the squad that played CSKA for the title two years earlier. After a Round 9 home loss against Rytas Vilnius, there was a coaching change with veteran Zvika Sherf taking charge. In his first game, he shook up the rotation with Terence Morris playing 40 minutes and posting 16 points and 19 rebounds in a road win at Efes Pilsen that sparked a six-game winning streak. The Israeli champs finished second to Rytas in their regular-season group, bested Olympiacos on a tiebreaker to win their Top 16 group and won Games 1 and 3 of their playoff series at home to eliminate FC Barcelona and reach the Final Four for the seventh time in nine seasons. In the semifinals, David Blu and Derrick Sharp sank 3 three-pointers each as Maccabi made 11 of 22 three-pointers to come from behind and beat Montepaschi Siena 85-92. Morris was named to the All-EuroLeague First Team and Yotam Halperin to the second team.
CSKA takes charge in second half
The championship game was a close affair through two quarters with CSKA holding on for a 41-42 halftime advantage. Back-to-back three-pointers by J.R. Holden to open the second half gave CSKA a cushion and Matjaz Smodis scored 7 in a 0-10 run to open the fourth quarter that made it 57-73. Maccabi never got closer than 10 the rest of the way. Langdon was named Final Four MVP after posting 21 points on 4-of-5 three-point shooting plus 7 rebounds to lead six CSKA scorers in double figures in victory. Holden finished with 14 points and Smodis, Andersen and Siskauskas netted 13 points apiece. WWillBynum paced Maccabi with 23 points.
CSKA's defense frustrated the Maccabi attack and the Israeli champs committed 16 turnovers and their shooters struggled to the tune of 5-of-18 shooting from behind the arc (27.8%). CSKA made 7 fewer turnovers, sank 11 of 27 threes (40.7%) and 30 of 35 free throws (85.7%). Those numbers helped CSKA to its sixth EuroLeague crown and Coach Ettore Messina took his fourth – and second with CSKA, which tied him for second among coaches in EuroLeague history. After helping Panathinaikos Athens edge CSKA in the championship game the season before, Siskauskas joined a shortlist of players to win the EuroLeague in consecutive seasons with different teams.
What happened next
CSKA's golden era continued even though this core group would not celebrate a championship together again. CSKA reached the championship game and lost to Panathinaikos on the closing seconds in 2009 and fell in the semifinal in 2010. It did not capture the championship again until 2016. Maccabi hired a new coach for the following season and ultimately missed the playoffs, but was back in the Final Four in 2011 when it lost to Panathinaikos in the championship game. It next ascended to the throne in 2014.