|Nate Huffman and Borko Radivic celebrating the victory|
The Maccabi fans stormed the court of the Bercy arena putting the icing on the cake of a superb endeavour of the Israeli team in Europe this season. The finals were a repetition of last year, but the roles were reversed. This time it was Maccabi’s turn to celebrate.
However, the start was not promising for Tel-Aviv. Antonis Fotsis (15pts and 8 rebs overall) found his mark early to give his team the initial lead. Panathinaikos seemed confident, displaying a great passing game to find their men open in the outside. They couldn’t build a significant lead because Rebraca was again way off his usual shape.
However, one man was waiting in the wings to take over. Arriel McDonald was in the zone. With Nate Huffman shut down by a good collective defence of Pana, Maccabi’s point guard poured in 15 pts (3-3 from three point land) punishing every Greek blunder. Maccabi’s lead jumped to 15 points at the half, profiting from two consecutive turnovers from Panathinaikos’s guards and a technical foul on Coach Obradovic.
But, Dejan Bodiroga was not to be beaten without struggle. Aided by the previously poorly used bench (Burke, Rogers and Gentile) and the shooting of Michael Koch, the Yugoslav swingman (27 pts, 8 rebs) took his wounded team back to just 6 points at the end of the third.
It was clearly the time for this year’s FIBA SuproLeague Player of the Year to step up, and Nate Huffman did just that. Rebraca, who had another terrible outing (4 pts, 1 reb), was no match for him as he ruled in money time (21 pts, 9 rebs). McDonald (21 pts, 9 ass) was unstoppable, running the Israeli offence. Anthony Parker (13) was the principal benefactor of his passes, rewarding Maccabi’s fans with a couple of memorable dunks.
This year’s show is over and there is no doubt that the best team won. The others (Pana, Efes, CSKA) weren’t even close. Europe has a fantastic European champion in Maccabi, who now has to think about how to build on this tremendous achievement. It will be hard to keep Huffman, but who knows? If he stays, he has the unique opportunity to be the leader of a new dynasty.