Itoudis wins EuroLeague for second time with CSKA
Dimitris Itoudis has become a EuroLeague champion for the second time in his career as head coach, steering CSKA Moscow to a 91-83 triumph over a gritty Anadolu Efes side in the showpiece game of the Final Four.
On Friday, CSKA completed a thrilling comeback to defeat reigning champions Real Madrid 95-90 in the semi-final, while Anadolu Efes thrashed Turkish rivals Fenerbahce 92-73. As expected, the Turks gave CSKA a run for their money in the final, but a stunning shooting performance proved the difference for the Russians as they emerged victorious 91-83 to win the EuroLeague for the eighth time in their coveted history.
Slack Efes defending allowed CSKA to open up a 29-20 lead after the first quarter. Nevertheless, the Turkish underdogs came roaring back in the second, outscoring CSKA 22-15 to suddenly get themselves within two points of the Muscovites. Shane Larkin, tallying an impressive 29 points on the night, drained three free-throws in the final second of the half.
Krunoslav Simon’s accurate three-pointer gave Efes the lead after the restart, but that proved to be the last time when they held any kind of advantage. While Efes refused to lie down, CSKA continued to be deadly when taking aim from outside the arc, with the unstoppable Will Clyburn and Cory Higgins draining a combined total of 8/11 three-point shots. The pair both finished the game with 20 points apiece.
Anadolu Efes plugged away in the fourth quarter as they got CSKA’s lead down to four points with Bryant Dunston throwing a huge dunk over Daniel Hackett. However, CSKA weren’t to be denied, as the Russian giants showed their class in the closing minutes to kill Efes’ charge and run out 91-83 winners.
This is Itoudis’ second EuroLeague title in charge of CSKA after he claimed the 2015/2016 championship. The 48-year-old, who has taken CSKA to five successive Final Fours in the EuroLeague since joining the Moscow club in 2014, is the first Greek head coach in history to win the competition twice.
Clyburn of Itoudis’ CSKA was named the Most Valuable Player of the final with 20 points, five rebounds and two assists.
Earlier in the day, Kostas Sloukas gained 17 points with Fenerbahce, but his injury-hit team still conceded a heavy 75-94 loss to Real Madrid in the third-place playoff.
HIGHLIGHTS: ANADOLU EFES - CSKA MOSCOW