Expected to be underdogs, Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv let their on-court performance do the talking, and came up as the surprise winners of the 2014 EuroLeague Basketball title in Milan (Italy) with a thrilling overtime victory over Real Madrid on Sunday, May 18th. With the victory, Maccabi secured their sixth Euroleague Basketball title and handed eight-time winners Madrid their second consecutive loss in the tournament’s final.
Real Madrid was the more star-studded team, featuring the likes of Euroleague MVP Sergio Rodriguez, All Euroleague First-Teamer Rudy Fernandez, Nikola Mirotic (drafted by the Chicago Bulls), Sergio Llull (drafted by the Houston Rockets), and more. But the show-stealer was instead a lesser-known American player for Maccabi – Tyrese Rice – who scored 21 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Rice helped his side tie the game in regulation and outscore Madrid 25-13 in the extra period to secure a victory. It was the first Euroleague final to be settled in overtime since 1969.
Madrid had a 26-16 lead earlier in the game, but Maccabi fought back to make it a two-point game at halftime and stay close at the heels of the Spanish club till the end. Aside from Rice, Ricky Hickman added 18 points and seven rebounds for Maccabi. Madrid were led by 21 points by Rodriguez.
Rice was named the MVP of the Euroleague Final Four.
Maccabi – on paper, at least – were the weakest team of the Final Four. They pulled an upset in the semi-final stage on Friday night against CSKA Moscow, defeating the Russian side with an epic fourth-quarter comeback 68-67 after being down by 10 before the start of the final period. Rice hit the game-winning layup to carry his team into the Final. Madrid provided no such dramatics against their heated Spanish rivals Barcelona, blowing out their opponents en route to an easy 100-62 win behind dominant performances by Rodriguez (21) and Mirotic (19).
But, a year after they were beaten by another underdog (Olympiacos) in last year’s final, Real Madrid were upset again, and caught off guard by the hunger and more determined Maccabi side.
Barcelona won the bronze medal after a fairly comfortable 93-78 win over CSKA Moscow on Sunday. Juan Carlos Navarro (20) and Maciej Lampe (17) led the way for Barcelona.
All Euroleague First Team
Sergio Rodriguez (Real Madrid)Keith Langford (Olimpia Milano)Rudy Fernandez (Real Madrid)Sonny Weems (CSKA Moscow)Ante Tomic (Barcelona)
Final Four MVP: Tyrese Rice (Maccabi Tel Aviv)
Euroleague MVP: Sergio Rodriguez (Real Madrid)