On this day in 2018, Real Madrid edged the defending EuroLeague champion Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul 85-80 at Stark Arena in Belgrade to take home the trophy for a record 10th time. Real returned to the throne after last winning the title in 2015, while Fenerbahce lost in what was its third consecutive championship game appearance.
In a tight and thrilling game, Fenerbahce led 38-40 at halftime, but Los Blancos scored the first 7 points of the second half and never trailed again. Fabien Causeur banked in a tough runner to open a 59-52 advantage with more than 2 minutes left in the quarter, and a triple from Jaycee Carroll capped an 8-2 run and made it 61-51 with exactly 6 minutes left. The lead peaked at 74-63, before Nicolo Melli, Brad Wannamaker and Ali Muhammed helped cut it to 81-78 with 22.4 seconds to go. Causeur missed 2 free throws, but Trey Thompkins was in the right place for a put-back to make it a 5-point advantage, which Madrid preserved. Causeur scored a team-high 17 points and Luka Doncic tallied 15 points and 4 assists to earn Final Four MVP honors. Thompkins added 10 points in a victory that saw 11 different Madrid players score at least 3 points and play at least 12 minutes. Melli paced Fenerbahce with a championship-game record 28 points and Brad Wanamaker scored 14 with 5 assists in defeat.
Real's Doncic was voted the Final Four MVP to complete one of the greatest seasons by a teenager in basketball history. At age 19, Doncic became the youngest ever Final Four MVP, capping a season in which he was also named EuroLeague MVP, made his first appearance on the All-EuroLeague First Team and won his second consecutive EuroLeague Rising Star Trophy.
Into the history books
Fenerbahce big man Melli made history by scoring 28 points, which were more than any other player in the championship game in the Final Four era. He made 7 of 10 two-point shots, 4 of 6 from downtown and 4 of 6 from the free-throw line. Four players shared the previous record with 27 points. However, Melli's mark lived for only one year until Shane Larkin scored 29 points in the 2019 championship game. On the winning side on this day, Pablo Laso became the first Spanish coach in 37 years to win multiple EuroLeague titles, while Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Llull, Felipe Reyes, Facu Campazzo, Gustavo Ayon and Jaycee Carroll all won their respective second EuroLeague crown.
Finishing off the job
Real finished in fifth place after 30 regular season rounds and then was routed in Game 1 of its best-of-five playoff series against Panathinaikos Athens. However, Real bounced back by winning Game 2 in Athens and then protected its home floor by winning Games 3 and 4 in the Spanish capital to clinch the series. At the Final Four, Real first bested the first-place team from the regular season, CSKA Moscow, 92-83 in the semifinals before seeing off defending champion Fenerbahce in the championship game.
Cannot go without Real vs. Fener
This is the only time ever Real and Fener have squared off in the championship game, however, the two powerhouses have met in the playoffs or at the Final Four in each of the last five years. The run started when Real beat Fenerbahce 96-87 in the semifinal at the 2015 Final Four. A year later Fenerbahce swept Real in their best-of-five 2016 EuroLeague Playoffs series. Fenerbahce also defeated Real 84-75 in the 2017 Final Four semifinals. Two teams also clashed at the 2019 Final Four in the third-place game, which Real won 94-75.