Euroleague Basketball: Barca heads to Paris

Team is a firm favorite to be crowned continental champion.

Barcelona enters this weekend’s Euroleague Final Four in Paris as a firm favorite to be crowned continental champion for just the second time in its history and the first since 2003.
The Catalan club has been extremely impressive this season, winning 18 of its 20 Euroleague games, going a perfect 10-0 in the regular season, 5-1 in the Top 16 and beating Real Madrid 3-1 in the quarterfinal playoffs.
Barcelona’s dominance this season is perhaps best represented by the fact that it not only won the vast majority of its games, but did so by an of average 16.8 points.
Barca, which is playing in its 11th Final Four, a record since the format was started in 1988, faces CSKA Moscow in the semifinals for a second straight season on Friday.
Last season, the Russians beat the Spaniards, only to lose in the title game to Panathinaikos.
CSKA is looking to reach its fifth consecutive Euroleague final, an achievement surpassed only by Italy’s Varese, which reached the title game between 1970 and 1979.
Moscow lost two of its first three Euroleague games of the season, including a 17-point defeat at the hands of Maccabi Tel Aviv. However, CSKA eventually hit its stride and dropped just two of its next 17 to reach the Final Four.
“The way we have played so far this season keeps us calm and gives usconfidence,” Barcelona coach Xavier Pascual said. “On the other hand,what we did so far is of no use. Anything can happen when you arrive atthe Final Four and you have to be ready for that particular moment.”
In the second semi of the night, Olympiacos plays Partizan Belgrade,which knocked out Maccabi in the quarterfinals with a 3-1 seriesvictory.
Olympiacos has not played in a Euroleague final since 1997, the year itwon its only European championship. Partizan has been waiting tocontend for the title even longer, having not reached the title gamesince 1992 when it claimed its one and only continental crown.
The final and third place game will take place on Sunday.
On TV: Barcelona vs CSKA Moscow (live at 7 p.m. onSport5+Live); Partizan Belgrade vs Olympiacos (live at 10: p.m. onSport5)