On this day 15 years ago, perennial contender CSKA Moscow returned to the EuroLeague throne for the first time in 35 years. In a thrilling championship game at sold-out Sazka Arena in Prague, Czech Republic, CSKA held off Maccabi Tel Aviv 73-69. CSKA lifted its fifth continental trophy, but first since 1971, and at the same ended Maccabi's two-year reign as champions.
Late run seals it
CSKA was playing in its fourth consecutive Final Four, but only its first championship game since 1973. The teams traded punches for a quarter and a half before CSKA went on a 13-0 run to take a 35-25 lead. Maccabi halved the deficit to 35-30 at halftime, but David Vanterpool scored 9 points to restore a 44-33 margin in the third quarter. However, Maccabi slowly rallied to close the gap and then used a 1-10 run early in the fourth to go in front 56-58. But Trajan Langdon replied with a triple and CSKA never trailed again. Theo Papaloukas increased the lead to 66-59 with 64 seconds to go before Jamie Arnold scored 5 points, including a three-pointer to cut it to 71-69 with 5.8 seconds to go. Langdon made both free throws on the other end to seal the outcome.
CSKA head coach Ettore Messina used only eight players in the game and CSKA had just six players score in the historic win, but five of them did so in double digits. Papaloukas paced CSKA in his usual role off the bench, scoring 18 points and dishing 7 assists, in the process earning Final Four MVP honors. Vanterpool finished with 16 points, while Matjaz Smodis collected 12 points and 8 rebounds. Trajan Langdon scored 11 and Aleksey Savrasenko added 10 in CSKA win. J.R. Holden was the only CSKA player who scored in single digits, finishing with 6 points despite playing a team-high 35:30 minutes. Maccabi guard Willie Solomon led all scorers with 20 points, Jamie Arnold had 14 while Anthony Parker scored 10 in defeat.
Maceo Baston shined with 15 rebounds to tie the championship game Final Four record set in 1993 by Benetton's Stefano Rusconi. Just like Rusconi 13 years earlier, Baston was also on the losing side in the title game despite a record performance. In addition, Baston's rebounding record came just two days after he set the Final Four mark with 6 blocks in a semifinal win against Tau Ceramica.
One night in rich history...
CSKA won its fifth EuroLeague title on this night and head coach Ettore Messina won his third after winning it twice before with Kinder Bologna (1998, 2001). Messina and CSKA went on to win it together again in 2008 when they again beat Maccabi. CSKA has lifted EuroLeague trophy twice more since then, first in 2016 and again last season, giving the club eight EuroLeague titles in total, second-most all-time behind only Real Madrid's 10. On the other hand, Maccabi also returned to the championship game in 2011 when it lost to Panathinaikos Athens before winning the crown in 2014 when it edged Real Madrid in overtime.