One year after the “Istanbul miracle” (Partizan’s upset over Joventut), another underdog, Limoges, stunned European basketball in the Peace and Friendship Stadium of Piraeus, Greece.
The ingredients for that unexpected run, one that everyone thought would end rather quickly, were quite simple: hard nosed man-to-man defense, controlled offense, based primarily on American forward Michael Young and the players’ respect of the system imposed by their coach, Bozidar Maljkovic.
With the best defense in Europe (61.7 ppg for opponents), Limoges finished second in its group behind PAOK. Thus, Limoges gained home court advantage against upand- coming Olympiakos Piraeus in the quarter finals.
While the powerful Real, almost invincible throughout the year, effortlessly ran to the Final Four, along with Benetton Treviso and PAOK, Limoges struggled in order to beat the Greek team. Beaten on a Zarko Paspalj last-second three pointer in game 1, games 2 and 3 also went down to the wire. Limoges won both; the last game ending with a Jurij Zdovc jumper with two seconds to go. In the semi-finals, Limoges took an early ten point lead (12-2) on Young’s wings (4 for 4 to start the game).
After a Real rally in second half, the French secured their ticket to the finals thanks to Richard Dacoury’s 14 points in the last 14 minutes of the game. Massimo Iacopini’s five three pointers in the second half sent Benetton Treviso to the final game, silencing PAOK’s fans. For his last
game with a European team, Toni Kukoc came very close to a fourth crown. Benetton started perfectly (19-8), but Michael Young and Jim Bilba (15 pts-8 rbs.) brought Limoges back (48-47). Kukoc’s three consecutive three pointers in crunch time seemed to put an end to Limoges’ dream.
But it looked like the gods of basketball were Limoges’ fans that night.
Frederic Forte stole the ball from Kukoc, as the Croatian prodigy was about to attempt the winning jumper. Limoges was in heaven...