TA didn't have enough to beat Moscow

Poor defensive play by Maccabi and a 10-point run give CSKA a 91-77 win in the Euroleague final.

russia euroleague 224.88 (photo credit: )
russia euroleague 224.88
(photo credit: )
In the end it just wasn't to be. There had been so much hope in the eyes of the Maccabi Tel Aviv fans since Friday's semifinal win over Montepaschi Siena, so much belief in the faces of the players. But a poor defensive display by the Israelis and a 10-point fourth quarter run by CSKA Moscow gave the Russians a 91-77 win over Tel Aviv in the Euroleague final at the Madrid Sports Palace on Sunday. It was CSKA's second European title in three seasons, both times against Maccabi in the finals. Despite the result the pride amongst the Israelis was obvious to see. As the clock wound down to zero the 5,000 Tel Aviv supporters erupted in song, showing their love for the club which few analysts had ever expected to make it this far after an up and down season. MVP of the final Trajan Langdon scored 21 points for the Russians, leading his team while grabbing seven rebounds. Tel Aviv's Will Bynum led all scorers with 23 points, but it was never going to be enough as only three Maccabi players made it into double figures compared with six for the opponents. Maccabi will now have to regroup and start again in Europe, with the aim being the 2009 Final Four in Berlin. On the home front the perennial Israeli champion won't have too much time to rest, with a BSL game against Hapoel Galil Elyon on Thursday night. "I'm sad we lost in the final," Maccabi coach Tzvika Sherf told Channel 10 after the game. "We have, however, come a long way. We lost to a better team. We did whatever we could, but it wasn't good enough. We had a poor third period and you can't come back against them." Sherf had been going for his first European title but just couldn't inspire his team over the solid Russians. Captain Derrick Sharp was the key to success on Friday, but had a far weaker game on Sunday, not scoring any points and missing three three-point attempts in 14 minutes on court. "They played well tonight," Sharp said after the game. "We missed a lot of shots and they hit a lot of shots. They deserve to win." Maccabi had actually started the stronger in a game which CSKA coach Ettore Messina had described as a classic. The Israelis went 5-0 up in the first minute through Nikola Vujcic and Omri Casspi. But both teams knew the final was going to be a marathon not a sprint and soon the Russians had drawn level. David Anderson gave CSKA its first lead of the game with a layup to make it 7-5. Maccabi's defense was letting it down time and again, but Bynum scored a layup and foul shot to take the lead for the yellows at 8-7. CSKA pulled ahead but Terrence Morris drove to the basket to tie the scores at 21. At the end of the first quarter the score was 22-21 to CSKA. The yellows started the second quarter well with a wriggling basket from Esteban Batista. But Anderson gave the lead back to Moscow with a triple. The lead went back and forth, although Batista scored his tenth point of the game to give the Israelis at 29-27 lead with seven minutes left in the half. But the Russians hit back. Langdon scored a triple after grabbing a rebound with four minutes on the clock and CSKA was 38-31 ahead. A triple from David Bluthenthal with 2 minutes left tied the score at 38. Will Bynum scored a wonderful three-pointer with two seconds left in the second quarter, but the yellows were still trailing by one at the half with the score at 42-41. The lead changed hands throughout the second period, although Tel Aviv's failure to convert its free throws, missing six of 11, proved costly as well as its lack of defensive rebounds. J.R. Holden opened the the second half with two three-pointers in a row to make it 48-43, then Anderson scored two and the lead was seven. Maccabi kept missing, frustrating the Israeli crowd. Moscow pulled away to 52-44 with five minutes to go in the third. There were probably four times as many Maccabi fans than supporters of CSKA in the tension-filled arena, but the Russians were finding their voices and drowned out the opposition as Tomas Van den Spiegel put CSKA up 61-53 from the free throw line with a minute to go. As the clock wound down the atmosphere in the stadium went dead. The dream was over for another year. Nothing would go right for the Israelis. Bynum went up for a layup after the break but missed, only to see Morris give away a foul and watch Matjaz Smodis score two from the free throw line to stretch the lead to 16 with six minutes to go. The Russians went on a ten-point run at the start of the fourth quarter going from 63-57 to 73-57, sealing the win. Bynum scored to bring Maccabi back into the game but it was too little too late.