Destination Istanbul

MAY 11 TO 13 ARE GOING TO BE BIG DAYS FOR 2012 SPORTS CAPITAL ISTANBUL. THE TEAMS REACHING THE TURKISH AIRLINES EUROLEAGUE FINAL FOUR, WHERE THE GIANTS OF EUROPEAN BASKETBALL WILL TAKE CENTER STAGE, HAVE BEEN DECIDED AND THE EXCITEMENT IS COMING RIGHT TO OUR FEET!

At the draw for the Women’s World Olympics Qualifying Tournament, which will take place in Ankara in June, FIBA Sports Director Lubomir Kotleba said that Turkey was the Capital of World Basketball. To clinch it, the second big basketball event of 2012, which started with the country’s hosting the Women’s Euroleague Final Eight in March, is taking place at Sinan Erdem Sports Hall May 11 to 13.

Following six exciting months, the top teams that will slug it out in the Final Four have been decided. The four teams copping tickets to Istanbul are FC Barcelona Regal, who easily ousted Unics Kazan in the play offs, Olympiacos Pireaus, who eliminated Montepaschi Siena in one of the biggest surprises of the season, CSKA Moscow, who suffered only two defeats all season and overcame Gescrap Bilbao, and Panathinaikos Athens, who trounced Maccabi Electra in the fifth match proving what bliss basketball can be.

CSKA Moscow and Panathinaikos Athens, and FC Barcelona Regal and Olympiakos Piraeus face off on the first day of the four-way final, in which even a possible final Greek pairing won’t dent the enthusiasm.

Teams
Last season’s champion, they gave everybody who said they’d never make the Final Four during the playoffs the message that they intended to maintain their title with a fight to the finish in the fifth game. This club, which spent some time this year figuring out how to keep the team together during the Greek economic crisis, managed to hold on, rising step by step to the Final Four led by key player Dimitris Diamantidis, whom Maccabi coach David Blatt has said he’d have liked to ‘lock in his hotel room before the game’.

FC Barcelona Regal
Not making it to the Final Four at home last season after being champions in 2010, FC Barcelona Regal broke a record to get to Istanbul. In a 10-match winning streak, the team finished the season with 18 victories and only one loss. Scoring machine Juan Carlos Navarro also broke his own record this season to take the title of top scorer in the Euroleague at season’s end. With an average of 61.5 baskets per game, the Spanish team come to Istanbul with great hopes of becoming champion again under the leadership of Xavier Pascual.

Olimpiakos Piraeus
Known as ‘the wolf’, coach Dusan Ivkovic has proven the importance of team play and experience once again by taking his team to the Final Four.  Vassilis Spanoulis is far and away the top name among the Reds, who failed to live up to expectations last season with an even stronger team. Getting a much better performance out of Joey Dorsey and Acie Law, who joined the team shortly before the Top 16, Olympiacos Pireaus maintained their advantage by defeating Anadolu Efes in an away game despite taking a beating from CSKA Moscow at home in the Top 16. It will come as no surprise to anybody if the Reds, who seem to produce a new leader.

CSKA Moskoua
Dominating the league all season under the lead of Jonas Kazlauskas, CSKA Moscow is a team that has shown everyone how real basketball is played. With the MVP titles they’ve won, Nenad Krstic and Andrei Kirilenko, who chose staying with CSKA Moscow over returning to the NBA, have proven they are the force behind their team. Always sticking to their game plan and not letting success go to their heads, they gave signs of making the Final Four right from the start.

FIXTURE

SEMIFINALS, May 11
CSKA Moscow vs. Panathinaikos Athens, 17:00 CET
Olympiacos Piraeus vs. FC Barcelona Regal, 20:00 CET

THIRD PLACE GAME, May 13
Loser SF1 vs. Loser SF 2, 17:00 CET

FINAL, May 13
Winner SF1 vs. Winner SF2, 20:00 CET

DID YOU KNOW
° Outplaying Unics in a 3-0 series, Barcelona went straight from the playoffs to the four-way final, equalizing a Euroleague record and becoming the best defensive team of the last century.

° Dominating the season, CSKA Moscow suffered their first defeat against Galatasaray MP in Istanbul and their second against Gescrap Bizkaia Bilbao in the playoffs.

° Emerging from their group at the last minute in the Euroleague regular season, Olympiakos  Piraeus had a tougher time emerging from their group in the Top 16, where they played better. Then they revved up under coach Ivkovic in the playoffs and copped a ticket to Istanbul.

° Panathinaikos Athens defeated Maccabi with a single basket in the tough five-match playoffs.

WHY ISTANBUL?
JORDI BERTOMEU
Euroleague Basketball President and CEO
Istanbul is a great city. When we look for a Final Four city there are certain things that we need the city to have, aside from the arena of course; we need top quality hotels, we need a large airport and we need a city that is a good place for our fans to spend a weekend and enjoy themselves. In this sense, Istanbul is a perfect fit for us. It as the wonderful Sinan Erdem arena, it has some of the best hospitality a country can offer and it is the home of our title sponsor, Turkish Airlines.  Basketball is also very strong in Istanbul, where the city has four very strong three of which have been in Euroelague and who some very passionate fans. All these things make it a good match for brining the Euroleague to this city.