|Game 4 of the VTB Finals marked the end to the career of Greek legend Theo Papaloukas|
Eurocup champions Lokomotiv Kuban pulled all stops on Friday night to force a do-or-die fifth game in their play-off finals series with CSKA Moscow, but could not prevent their mighty opponents from reaching a 59-54 win in Krasnodar and celebrating back-to-back VTB United League titles.
Playing without two of their biggest stars who are sidelined with injury, Russian forward Victor Khryapa and Serbian point guard Milos Teodosic, CSKA had to dig deep and make full use of their vast experience and quality as a team to overcome a six-point first-half deficit.
Lokomotiv had taken an 18-12 lead at the end of the first quarter and, with both opponents struggling offensively, they were still up 33-27 at the half-time interval.
The third frame proved crucial to the final outcome, as CSKA outscored their opponents 23-14 to turn the tables around and from then on they had the experienced personnel at their disposal to manage this advantage until the end.
On a night that was marked by huge defensive efforts and poor shooting percentages, Ettore Messina's side scored only nine points in the final frame, but gave up a meagre seven to their hosts, who could never hope to regain the lead on such low productivity.
CSKA shot 40% from the floor and converted 58% of their free throws (14-of-24) while Lokomotiv finished with 41% field goal percentage and 48% (13-of-27) from the charity stripe.
One of the few players who made at least 50% of their shots from the field (8-for-16) was CSKA forward Sonny Weems and he paved the way to his team's triumph with a game-high 24 points, while Russian forward Andrey Vorontsevich also made an important contribution with nine points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Lokomotiv were led by Derrik Brown's 16 points while Greek international Nick Calathes finished with 11 points, six boards and a game-high seven assists.
Friday night's encounter was the last competitive game in the career of another Greek player but on the CSKA side, FIBA Europe Player of the Year 2006 Theo Papaloukas.
"It was the finale I had dreamt of, if we had also won the Euroleague it would just have been perfect," Papaloukas, who made a three-minute appearance in the game, said.
"I am very happy and grateful to end my career at a club I have loved so much.
"I don't really have any plans for my retirement, I guess I will first rest and spend more time with my family."
|Daniel Hackett led the way for Montepaschi Siena with 23 points, nine assists and five rebounds|
SIENA IN SERIE A FINALS
Reigning Italian Serie A champions Montepaschi Siena reminded everyone on Friday night that you can never write off a team that has a winning mentality engrained in its DNA and knocked Regular Season winners Cimberio Varese out of the title race.
Siena prevailed 82-69 on the road in the deciding Game 7 of their semi-final series with Varese, in a repeat of their quarter-final success against Emporio Armani Milano, when they also advanced in seven games despite not holding the home-court advantage.
The Italian champions will now try to defend their title against Acea Roma, who had reached the Finals after winning Game 7 of their semi-final series against Lenovo Cantu on Thursday.
In the Friday decider in Varese, Siena started off very permissive on defence but tightened the bolts in the second quarter and took a 42-39 lead at half-time.
They outscored their hosts 25-20 in the third frame to take a comfortable eight-point cushion for the first time in the clash and then kept their hosts to just 10 points in the final stanza to secure their triumph.
Italian international Daniel Hackett came up with another huge performance in a clutch game in this post-season and paved the way for the winners with 23 points, nine assists and five rebounds, while Mike Green had 20 points for Varese in defeat.