Anadolu Efes became the 2021-22 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champions, for the second time in a row, by beating Real Madrid 58-57 on Saturday, May 21.
The game started slowly as both sides could not score for almost the first two minutes at the Stark Arena in Belgrade.
Real Madrid finished a slow-paced first quarter, 15-14, in front with their effective offensive rebounds.
Despite Shane Larkin and Vasilije Micic trying to rally Efes by dropping 23 points in the first half, Los Merengues widened their lead to five points at the end of the second quarter, and the first half ended 34-29.
Only Larkin and Micic scored 23 points of Efes, while Real Madrid scored from nine different players in the first half.
Efes’ James Anderson and Real Madrid’s Vincent Poirier had a row after a challenge and both players were penalized with an unsportsmanlike foul in the third quarter, which ended with 42-40 Los Merengues lead.
Anadolu Efes brought the lead in the beginning of the last quarter and managed to stay on top in the end, with German center Tibor Pleiss’ vital points, and won the final 58-57.
Efes kept Real Madrid with only 23 points in the second half with a good defensive play.
Micic, who was also selected as the Final Four MVP, dropped 23 points, while Pleiss and Larkin added 19 and 10 points, respectively. Walter Tavares was the best player of the game for Real Madrid with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The game marked the third EuroLeague win for Turkiye, as Fenerbahce Beko won the 2016-17 title.
Anadolu Efes’s head coach Ergin Ataman said the next challenge after winning the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague final ion Saturday is to be national champions of the Eurobasket in September.
“After achieving this goal, I will also coach the national team. My goal is to win a medal with the national team as well. To become the champion in the EuroBasket 2022. I am concentrating on that right now. Turkish people should believe in it,” he said.
Ataman said it was not easy to make it to the final but Anadolu Efes made history.
”We went through difficult times, but we never fell into pessimism or despair. Anadolu Efes has always stood upright. We have taken every step as a family to come to these days, we have always thought about these days. It’s an extraordinary feeling. I’m very proud of my players. My players made history. They went down in the history of the club. They held a great organization. I would also like to thank the fans,” he said.
Ataman said he is sorry for Real Madrid.
“I’m sorry for them. We know very well how we will play in the last quarter. Offensive strategies do not work very well in the finals. I have great players. We can solve the locked moments. My team is at the level of an NBA team. This season we did not play like an NBA team. But we played like that in previous seasons. That’s all,” said Ataman.
Ataman said that he is sorry for the Ukrainian victims as well as the athletes in Russia, in response to a question about Russia’s war with Ukraine.
”I am very sorry and very sad. This is never acceptable. Innocent people lost their lives. This is unbelievable. We are in 2022. It is unbelievable in this century. What is happening in the world of sports is also unacceptable. This is a really terrible policy. We will resolve this issue as we defeated the COVİD-19 pandemic. I am also very sorry about the sportspeople working in Moscow becoming the victims of this politics,” he said.
Semifinal hero Vasilije Micic from Serbia, who made a last-second three-pointer to place Anadolu Efes in the final said he is especially happy to win the championship in his homeland.
”This is a great achievement for us. Really speechless. I cannot believe that we made it. I am extremely happy. I want to thank all the fans. I hope we made them proud,” said Micic.
Forward Chris Singleton said the victory is for the fans.
”It’s an amazing feeling. We just won it for the fans. I cannot explain how happy I am and how joyfully I am. I just want to celebrate it with my all teammates. We go down the history. Only three teams in history got to be two-time champions. That’s just very special. That just shows your character. It is a great move,” said Singleton.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated Anadolu Efes’ European victory.
“My heartfelt congratulations to Anadolu Efes basketball team, our country’s pride,” he said on Twitter.