Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and Darussafaka Istanbul face each other in the 7DAYS EuroCup Finals with the championship and the right to compete in the 2018-19 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague both at stake. Lokomotiv advanced to this stage with a perfect record this season, but Darussafaka is undefeated in the playoffs and looks for its first continental trophy.
Both teams have proved throughout the season to be the best of the best in the current EuroCup campaign. Lokomotiv arrives to the Finals undefeated - 20 wins from 20 games – becoming the first team to do so. Another win in Game 1 of the Finals will give the current Lokomotiv roster the longest winning streak in competition history. Lokomotiv previously won 20 consecutive games from the 2013 Final to the second leg of the 2015 Quarterfinals. On the other hand, Darussafaka had a brilliant season and its 17-3 record doesn't reflect its level of dominance. Two of those losses - against Fiat Turin in the regular season and against Herbalife Gran Canaria in the Top 16 – came when the team had already qualified and locked up first place in its group. Its only significant loss came against Cedevita Zagreb - in early December. Both teams swept their quarterfinals and semifinals series to set up the best Finals possible!
Best defense vs. best scorer
Lokomotiv has been the best defensive team in the competition, allowing just 68.7 points per game and forcing opponents to the worst shooting percentages in the competition (46.3% 2FG, 29% 3FG). It is also unbelievably consistent – over the last 14 games, no opponent has managed to reach 75 points against the Russian powerhouse. It will be interesting to see how Lokomotiv's defense matches up against Darussafaka star guard and 2017-18 EuroCup MVP Scottie Wilbekin, who leads the competition both in scoring (18.9 ppg.) and performance index rating (20.7 per game). In his last EuroCup game, against FC Bayern Munich, Wilbekin set EuroCup records for points (41) and three-point shots made (10) in a non-overtime game. Lokomotiv has pretty much stopped everyone and Wilbekin has been able to beat every opponent. Who will have the final word?
Darussafaka. Better on the road
Home-court advantage has been critical so far in the 2017-18 EuroCup playoffs – all six series have been won by the teams that played Game 1 at home. Darussafaka, however, has performed better on the road as the season progressed, especially in the playoffs. The Turkish powerhouse struggled in Game 1 of the Quarterfinals against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica, entering the final minute tied 52-52 before a three-pointer by Wilbekin and free throws by JaJuan Johnson sealed the outcome. Darussafaka trailed by 23 in Game 1 of the Semifinals against FC Bayern Munich, but rallied to win it in the last second on a three-point shot by Stanton Kidd. Darussafaka played much better on the road, dominating Game 2 against Buducnost and relying on a monster performance by Wilbekin to defeat Bayern in Munich. Lokomotiv has been strong on the road lately, too, getting double-digit wins against Gran Canaria and Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia.
History in the making
A few players and coaches in this series can write their name in golden letters in competition history. Darussafaka mastermind David Blatt could become just the second head coach to win both the 7DAYS EuroCup and the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague titles. He won the 2014 EuroLeague with Maccabi Tel Aviv and can get the EuroCup title now. Only Dusan Ivkovic, a EuroLeague winner with Olympiacos Piraeus in 1997 and 2012 and a EuroCup champion with Dynamo Moscow in 2006, has done so to date. Lokomotiv players Stanislav Ilnitskiy and Dmitriy Khvostov won the EuroCup with Khimki Moscow Region. Only 17 players have won the competition twice and only four of them were born in Russia - Sergey Bykov, Sergey Monia, Egor Vialtsev and Maksim Sheleketo. Dmitry Kulagin already won the EuroLeague with CSKA and could become the 19th player to double up with the EuroCup. The list includes Russians Aleksey Savrasenko, Zakhar Pashutin and Vitaly Fridzon, as well as well-known players such as Ricky Rubio, Nando De Colo, Rudy Fernandez, Felipe Reyes, Nick Calathes and Dejan Tomasevic.