The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague has its first back-to-back champion in nine years and just the fourth of the Final Four era after a showdown for the trophy on Saturday in Belgrade, Serbia, that did perfect justice to the spectacular season that came before it.
Efes does it again, 57-58, in a title-game thriller!
Anadolu Efes Istanbul made history by defending its crown from last season with a defensive-minded 57-58 victory over Real Madrid, the team with the most titles in competition history, 10. Efes becomes the first back-to-back EuroLeague champion since Olympiacos Piraeus in 2012 and 2013. The only other repeat winners since 1988 when the modern Final Four era began are Maccabi Tel Aviv (2004 and 2005) and Jugoplastika Split (1989, 1990, 1991).
Walter Tavares had a monster first quarter to get Real off on the right foot, but it soon settled into a cat-and-mouse battle with 10 lead changes and five ties going into the last 3 minutes, as his counterpart, Tibor Pleiss, scored 17 second-half points. A tip-in by Pleiss going into the final minute was good for a 55-58 lead as Real managed only a layup by Sergio Llull thereafter. Micic led Efes with 23 points, Pleiss added 19 and Shane Larkin 10. The rest of the Efes players had 6 points between them. Real's sole double-digit scorer was Tavares, who had 12 of his 14 points in the first quarter. Llull came next with 9 points.
No team was able to find offensive momentum in the early going, despite a display of high-pace basketball on both ends. Micic's single free throw was the only point that fell in the first 2 minutes. Adam Hanga broke the ice with a layup that was soon answered by an outside shot from Pleiss. Tavares then took over inside with consecutive buckets that pushed Real ahead, 6-4, but Micic replied from deep to tie it. Tavares kept rocking in the paint, providing 6 more points to build a 12-6 advantage for Los Blancos. Tavares added his 12th point to make it 15-8 entering the last minute, but Larkin revived Efes with a triple and a three-point play that brought Efes within 15-14 after 10 minutes. By then, Tavares had 5 offensive boards among his 7 total, both of which were single-quarter records in any Final Four game.
Five Stars: One magic Efes quintet
Five stars: One magic Real Madrid quintet
Bryant Dunston | Season Blocks | 2021-22 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague
Games of the Season: Olympiacos Piraeus-Anadolu Efes Istanbul, Semifinal
Games of the Season: FC Barcelona-Real Madrid
Vincent Poirier | Season Dunks | 2021-22 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague
Games of the Season: Real Madrid-FC Bayern Munich
Games of the Season: Olympiacos Piraeus-Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Games of the season: Real Madrid-AX Armani Exchange Milan
Games of the Season: AS Monaco-Real Madrid
Interviews: Dogus Balbay & Bryant Dunston, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Interview: Vasilije Micic
Interview: Coach Ergin Ataman
How EuroLeague TV experts called the Olympiacos-Efes semifinal
Efes players celebrate at the press conference!
Vasilije Micic | Final Four MVP | Turkish Airlines EuroLeague
Real Madrid vs Anadolu Efes Istanbul | Championship Game | Highlights
Championship Game post-game quotes: Tibor Pleiss, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Top 5 Plays | Championship Game | Turkish Airlines EuroLeague
Championship Game post-game quotes: Shane Larkin, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Championship Game post-game quotes: Elijah Bryant, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Spalding Dunk of the Night: Singleton dunks off a steal!
7DAYS Magic Moment of the Night: Micic finds Pleiss!
Anadolu Efes Istanbul celebrates title!
MVP on court interview: Vasilije Micic, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Championship Game post-game quotes: Adam Hanga, Real Madrid
Magic Moment: Micic finds Pleiss
Magic Moment: Poirier stops Pleiss!
Magic Moment: Singleton dunks off a steal!
Magic Moment: Tavares, off the glass!
Magic Moment: Larkin's acrobatic basket
Magic Moment: Fernandez to Poirier for an alley-oop slam
Magic Moment: Singleton's put-back dunk!
Magic Moment: Tavares throws it down
Championship Game Preview
One on One with Darko Peric: Shane Larkin, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
One on One with Darko Peric: Walter Tavares, Real Madrid
Lookback: Past thrillers between Real and Efes
Championship Game pre-game quotes: Walter Tavares, Real Madrid
Championship Game pre-game quotes: Adam Hanga, Real Madrid
Championship Game pre-game quotes: Chris Singleton, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Championship Game pre-game quotes: Tibor Pleiss, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Micic's shot as seen from the Efes bench
Top 5 Plays | Semifinals| Turkish Airlines EuroLeague
Post-game quotes: Vincent Poirier, Real Madrid
FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid | Semifinal | Highlights
Magic Moment: Poirier's block off the glass!
Magic Moment: Mirotic finds Davies!
Magic Moment: Poirier dunks again!
Magic Moment: Causeur to Poirier for two-handed slam
Micic beat Tavares off-the-dribble to give a 15-16 edge to Efes at the start of the second quarter. Jeffery Taylor hit a corner three to end Los Blancos' drought from behind the arc, but Chris Singleton found an easy dunk and Micic shined again driving to the basket to keep Efes in charge, 18-20. Real didn't tremble and soon recovered a 26-22 advantage behind a bucket by Sergio Llull and a powerful alley-oop slam by Vincent Poirier. Fabien Causeur followed with a contested layup and Anthony Randolph made things worse for Efes, 29-22, with a three-pointer. Larkin and Micic took over on the other end, combining for 7 points that shrunk the difference to just one possession, 31-29. The rally didn't go further, though, as a corner three-pointer by Randolph allowed Real to reach halftime ahead, 34-29.
Real widened the gap after the break to 37-29 thanks to a free throw by Tavares and layup by Alberto Abalde. Pleiss counterattacked under the board, but that was the only Efes field goal for the first 6 minutes of the third quarter. Even though Real also struggled on offense, too, Hanga sank a long triple to make it 40-31 midway through the third quarter. The reigning champs found a solution in Pleiss, who first added free throws and then came up big from behind the arc to bring Efes within 40-36. Micic joined him with 2 more free throws that made it 40-38 and then added a layup later right after Yabusele scored inside as Real clung to a slim 42-40 advantage after 30 minutes.
Efes needed just 1 more minute to complete its rally through Micic, who drilled a contested three-pointer over Tavares for a 42-43 lead. Chris Singleton followed with a steal and a finish which extended it to 42-45 with 7 minutes remaining. Real held on thanks to the free-throw line, as Deck, Llull and Poirier combined for 5 points there that made it all square, 47-47. Pleiss's next basket was replied to with a timely triple by Lllull to return the lead to Los Blancos, 50-49. Pleiss took over again, turning back-to-back assists by Micic into a corner jumper and a monster alley-oop to turn the tables again, putting Efes up 50-53 with 3 minutes to go. Even though Deck showed up from deep to forge a new tie, Micic answered quickly from the same place as Efes stayed in front, 53-56, entering crunch time. Real found Tavares inside to draw a foul that was turned into a free throw and an offensive rebound that provided another point from the line to keep it tight, 55-56. Pleiss was again a key factor for his team, as he made up for Micic's missed layup with a decisive tip-in and a 55-58 advantage with 1:05 remaining. Llull got Los Blancos closer with an off-the-dribble layup on the next possession, 57-58, and still 0:44 to play. There were no more points in the game, though, as Real's fouls allowed Efes to consume the remaining time and confirm a historic victory.