BELGRADE (Reuters) - Real Madrid clinched a record-extending 10th Euroleague title after overpowering last season’s champions Fenerbahce Istanbul 85-80 in Sunday’s spectacular final of the continent’s premier club basketball competition.
Led by French guard Fabien Causeur and 19-year-old Slovenian Luka Doncic, who was named the season’s most valuable player after Friday’s 92-83 semi-final win over CSKA Moscow, Real forced Fenerbahce into submission thanks to iron-clad defending.
Causeur netted 17 points for Real and Doncic, widely expected to be among the top picks at next month’s NBA draft in New York, added 15 with a mature performance which silenced 12,000 fervent Turkish fans in the Belgrade Arena.
“Everyone’s talking about the individual awards but this was a team effort and it put the icing on the cake of a very tough season,” Doncic, who was also named the Final Four’s most valuable player, told reporters.
“Win or lose, we always stick together as a unit and that’s the key to success.
“I am very proud of my team mates and honoured to play for Real. We grew as a team through a season ravaged by injuries,” added Doncic, who remained tight-lipped about a possible summer move to the NBA.
The titanic tussle shifted Real’s way in the third quarter when they carved out a 63-55 lead and never looked back, although Fenerbahce missed a chance to force overtime.
Their late fightback slashed the deficit to 81-78 in the final minute, but Real’s Tray Tompkins tipped in a vital offensive rebound to put the game beyond Fenerbahce.
Italy forward Nicolo Melli stood out for Fenerbahce with a game-high 28 points but his blistering individual display could not save the Turkish side, who committed a flurry of turnovers and missed plenty of open shots.
Real’s guards stifled Fenerbahce’s usually lethal backcourt offence, while their towering centre Walter Tavares outplayed his rival Jan Vesely under the boards.
Fenerbahce’s Serbian coach Zeljko Obradovic, who was also chasing a record 10th Euroleage title with a fifth different club, rued his team’s poor shooting.
“We missed some incredibly easy shots from close range and our defence was also not at the required level,” he said.
“But credit to Real, they fully deserved their win and all we can do is congratulate them.
“Real had a lot of problems with injuries throughout the season but they came here in great shape and enjoyed a perfect tournament as its dark horses.”
Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Clare Fallon