COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) – Anadolu Efes Istanbul clinched their maiden Euroleague basketball title on Sunday when they beat double former winners Barcelona 86-81 in the final after overcoming an early 10-point deficit.
Serbian guard Vasilije Micic, who was named the Final Four’s most valuable player and is set to join NBA franchise Oklahoma City Thunder next season, led the way with 25 points and Shane Larkin added 21 for Efes.
Earlier on Sunday, Armani Milan beat CSKA Moscow 83-73 in the third-place match.
Barcelona, whose 40-year-old centre Pau Gasol was hoping to win his first title in Europe’s premier club competition after successive NBA triumphs with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and 2010, led 25-15 early in the second quarter.
They stifled Micic and Larkin with aggressive defence but Efes responded with a 21-4 run and never looked back after nosing ahead 39-36 at halftime.
Larkin, who nailed all his 12 shots from the foul line, pierced through Barca’s defence at will in the second half and Micic found his range as the Turkish side carved out an 11-point lead midway through the third quarter.
Barcelona briefly drew level early in the fourth but the Catalan side ran out of steam in the home straight as Micic buried several crunch shots to restore his side’s lead.
The 27-year-old guard hit a pair of free throws with seven seconds left to seal the contest as Efes became the second Turkish side to win the Euroleague following city rivals Fenerbahce’s success in 2017.
Micic, who racked up 25 points and six assists in Friday’s semi-final win over CSKA before he fouled out of the game in the closing stages, said he had learned his lesson from not pacing himself against the Russian side.
“It’s hard to say anything smart now but honestly I learned from that game that you have to save something for the end of the match,” he told Euroleague television in a flash interview.
“Tonight I played smarter but it was Shane who kept us alive in the first half and congratulations to the whole team for doing a great job.”
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Clare Fallon)