On this day in 2005, Tau Ceramica Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz authored one of the greatest upsets in EuroLeague history when it eliminated mighty CSKA Moscow 78-85 at Olympiysky Arena in the Russian capital in the second semifinal at the Final Four.
The favorites' road to the Final Four
CSKA built a star-studded squad with the aim of following in the footsteps of FC Barcelona (2003) and Maccabi Tel Aviv (2004) to become the third consecutive club to capture the EuroLeague crown on home soil. Marcus Brown led six CSKA scorers who averaged at least 10 points for the season. Under the guidance of Coach Dusan Ivkovic, CSKA started the season on a 17-game winning streak, acing the regular season and winning three in a row to start the Top 16. Despite a surprising home loss to Barcelona in Round 4, CSKA won its next four, including a two-game sweep of Ulker Istanbul in the best-of-three playoffs, to enter the Final Four as the team to beat. Its semifinal opponent would be Tau, which it beat twice during the regular season.
The underdogs' road to the Final Four
Tau came into the season with a promising squad, though without any players who had ever been to the Final Four before. Twice during the regular season, Tau lost three games in a row and only advanced to the Top 16 on a tiebreaker. Likewise, it needed a tiebreaker to reach the playoffs. Tau finished 4-2 and needed to beat Zalgiris Kaunas on the road in Round 6 to get past Climamio Bologna to advance. Tau exploded to rout Benetton Treviso 59-98 in the biggest road win in playoff history in terms of margin of victory and then took care of business in Game 2 at home to punch its ticket to the Final Four.
Semifinals Friday in Moscow
Maccabi Tel Aviv downed Panathinaikos 91-82 in the first semifinal as Derrick Sharp came off the bench to lead six Maccabi scorers in double figures with 20 points. All expected a showdown between the defending champs and the hosts in Sunday's championship game with only one team standing in the way: Tau. The "visitors" started strong and Jose Manuel Calderon and Travis Hansen each hit threes in a 0-8 run for a 5-13 margin. Tau would lead by as many as 11 before settling for 17-25 after 10 minutes. CSKA scored 11 unanswered points early in the second quarter to take a 28-27 edge. The score remained close until Tau's reserves led a 0-7 push late in the half to give their side a 40-47 halftime advantage. Luis Scola and Prigioni made it a double-digit advantage early in the second half, however, CSKA regained its composure and behind Brown and J.R. Holden drew within 59-60 at the end of the third quarter. Brown scored first in the fourth to put CSKA in front, but with the score tied 62-62 and less than 8 minutes remaining, Tau soared on a 2-11 run featuring three-pointers by Prigioni, Calderon and Arvydas Macijauskas to take control for good.
Tau's victory by the numbers
Macijauskas led the winners with 23 points, Calderon scored 13 and Kornel David posted a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, 6 of them in the final quarter. Luis Scola added 10 points despite playing less than 21 minutes due to foul trouble. Seven different Tau players collected at least 1 steal as the team swiped 13 steals. Shooting proved to be an Achilles heel for CSKA, which made only 10 of its 28 foul shots (35.7%) and 8 of 30 tries from behind the arc (26.7%). Holden led CSKA with 20 points. Dimos Dikoudis had 13 points, Brown 12 and David Andersen 10.
What happened next
Two days later, Maccabi put an end to the Tau dream with a 90-78 victory in the championship game. Sarunas Jasikevicius scored 22 points and dished 5 assists to earn Final Four MVP honors as Maccabi became the first team to repeat as EuroLeague champion since Split in 1991. The same two teams would meet again in the Final Four a year later with Maccabi winning again, this time in the semifinals in Prague. CSKA's season came to an end with a loss to Panathinaikos in the third-place game, but it reloaded over the summer and defeated Maccabi in the 2006 championship game for its first EuroLeague crown in 35 years.