Maccabi lose Euroleague final 73-69

"This just wasn't our day," said guard Anthony Parker following the game.

Maccabi TA 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Maccabi TA 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's quest for a third straight European championship ended in heartbreak Sunday night when the yellow-and-blue lost 73-69 to CSKA Moscow in the final in Prague. Tel Aviv was attempting to win its third straight European title but was unable to break down the strong CSKA defense. The win gave Moscow its first European title since 1971 and its fifth all-time. Moscow coach Ettore Messina is known for his defensive prowess and it showed on Sunday when his team forced 20 Maccabi turnovers and held Tel Aviv to a meager 44 percent from the field. Messina won his third European title on Sunday night, improving his record against Maccabi overall to 13-0. "They played well and we couldn't manage to break down their defense," Maccabi coach Pini Gershon said after the game. "They deserve to be European champions." Intern Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Moshe Katzav consoled Gershon on the phone after the match and urged the coach to stay with the team for another season, although it appears he will be leaving. It was more then symbolic that the loss came against one of Israel's all-time greatest rivals. Maccabi's first-ever matchup against CSKA came in 1977, in Virton, Belgium, back in the days when the Soviet Union refused to play in Israel or to host Israeli clubs. Tel Aviv electrified the nation by upsetting the Russian champs en route to its first European title but on Sunday night was unable to duplicate the feat. "They played well and made their shots; it just wasn't our day," Anthony Parker said. "We never got into a rhythm offensively and it was just one of those games." Maceo Baston scored the first points of the final and gave Maccabi an early lead. Tel Aviv increased the margin by going on a 7-0 run in the first two and a half minutes. CSKA scored its first basket three and a half minutes into the game and began cutting into Maccabi's early advantage. Aleksey Savrasenko tied the score at seven with a dunk capping a Moscow 7-0 lead. The first quarter continued to be tight, eventually ending at 18-18. The teams continued exchanging the lead at the start of the second period with CSKA beginning to dictate its style of play. Good defensive play by the Russians gave them a 10-point lead with Maccabi looking helpless against the tough defense. Two baskets by Derrick Sharp and Tal Burstein pulled Tel Aviv closer to CSKA with the half ending at 35-30. Five points by David Vanterpool at the start of the second half gave CSKA a 40-30 lead. CSKA returned to long possessions as it sought open shots, but Maccabi improved its defense. Arnold had a three-pointer bounce in to the delight of the yellow fans in the stands, as Maccabi clawed its way to 46-42. Nikola Vujcic closed the gap to two from the line and after Savrasenko missed two free throws, Vujcic went inside to tie the score. Parker buried a long jumper to make it a 49-48 at the end of an exciting third quarter. Two three pointers at the start of the fourth quarter by Theo Papaloukas, who was named MVP, gave CSKA a 55-48 lead. Baskets by Parker and Will Solomon gave Maccabi an 8-0 run that tied the game. CSKA regained the lead on a Langdon triple and after Solomon missed, Smodis buried another one from downtown to give CSKA a four-point lead, 62-58. Two minutes from the end of the game Vujcic lost the ball, as Maccabi fans began to fear that the tree-peat would not happen. Papaloukas drew a foul, made free throws and gave CSKA a 66-59 lead with 1:04 to go. Solomon's circus shot made it 68-63 with 33 tics on the clock, but Maccabi, forced to foul, lost Burstein to his fifth foul as Smodis made one and gave CSKA a 6-point lead with 28 seconds left. For Maccabi, Solomon had 20, Jamie Arnold 14, Anthony Parker 10, Tal Burstein 9, Maceo Baston 6 and 15 rebounds, Nikola Vujcic 4, Derrick Sharp 3, Kirk Penney 3. Sharon Shasson played but did not score. Earlier in the day, Tau Vitoria beat Barcelona 87-82 for third place.