Road to the Finals: Unicaja Malaga

Mar 24, 2017 by Print
Road to the Finals: Unicaja Malaga

Unicaja Malaga arrives to the 7DAYS EuroCup Finals with an 11-8 record, but had the good fortune to get the right wins at the right time. Joan Plaza has become the first head coach to reach the EuroCup Finals with three different teams - Real Madrid, Cajasol Seville and now Unicaja. Plaza won the competition with Madrid in 2007 and playmaker Oliver Lafayette is also a former champ after lifting the EuroCup trophy with Valencia Basket in 2014. Unicaja could become the first newcomer to win the EuroCup title since Hapoel Jerusalem in 2004.

Unicaja did not find much trouble in the regular season where it won three of its four home games and recorded a convincing 62-86 road triumph in its first-ever EuroCup showdown against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica in the Montenegrin capital. Jamar Smith led the way with 19 points and Dejan Musli added 16. A few weeks later, Unicaja Malaga hit 15 three-point shots and qualified for the Top 16 with a comfortable 93-75 win over Buducnost. Kyle Fogg finished the game with 31 points on 6-for-10 three-point shooting and earned MVP honors for Round 7 of the Regular Season. Unicaja finished fourth in Group C with a 4-4 record after losing twice against FC Bayern Munich. < /p>

Its many years of Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Top 16 experience - Unicaja played that stage in each of the last 11 seasons – proved very useful. Unicaja knew that a good start was crucial in this phase and went straight for it, defeating ALBA Berlin 69-77 in the German capital behind 15 points from Jeff Brooks, and improved to 2-0 by topping Cedevita Zagreb 73-59 a sharp shooter Adam Waczynski netted 17 points. Unicaja dropped a pair of games to Valencia Basket, which ended its chances of finishing first. In the road to clinch second place, Unicaja bested ALBA 83-77 in a critical showdown. Fogg led the winners with 20 points. With the game tied at 71-71, a 10-2 run sealed the outcome down the stretch.

Unicaja stormed into the quarterfinals without the home-court advantage against Bayern, which claimed a 91-82 victory in Game 1. Unicaja tried to rally from a double-digit margin, but ran out of time. With its back against the ball, Unicaja played its best basketball and finally defeated Bayern 82-67 after three consecutive losses. Unicaja gave Bayern no chance and snapped its 10-game winning streak in the competition. Smith came off the bench for Unicaja for 13 points and both Brooks and Waczynski scored 11. The series came down to a do-or-die Game 3 in Munich in which Unicaja prevailed, 69-74. Nedovic took over with 21 points and Musli added 16. Unicaja led 48-57 early in the fourth quarter and held off Bayern's comeback to make it to the semifinals.

Unicaja travelled to Russia to face Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in the semifinals opener. Lokomotiv had won seven of its previous eight games. Defense made the difference in the series, as Unicaja dominated both games almost from start to finish. Brooks had 18 points and Fogg added 15 to lead Unicaja to a 57-73 win in Game 1. A 2-16 run that bridged between the last two quarters put Unicaja in the driver's seat with a 44-57 margin with seven minutes left. Things were even easier for Unicaja in Game 2, in front of a sellout crowd at Martin Carpena. Unicaja opened the game with a 19-3 run and kept a double-digit margin almost all the way until the final buzzer. Nedovic earned semifinals Game 2 MVP honors, matching his EuroCup career-high with 21 points. The Unicaja fans had plenty of time to celebrate that their team had reached a European final for the first time since 2001!