It’s been a rocky playoffs season for some of the biggest clubs in European basketball. Emmet Ryan takes you through a brief list of the carnage
Wednesday night saw the biggest upset by far of the post-season in national and regional leagues across Europe as Hapoel Eilat beat Maccabi Tel Aviv 79-76 to take the Israeli league semi-final series 3-2. Eilat, whose budget is but a tiny spec of that of Maccabi’s, ended a run of consecutive finals appearances for Maccabi that went all the way back to 1993 when Hapoel Galil Elyona beat Hapoel Tel Aviv 3-1 in the finals. Maccabi, which won every title available last season, ended up only taking the cup this year. This year’s Israeli finals, which will be played over two legs, will see a first-time ever champion crowned. Eilat’s lone previous appearance in the decider was in 1998 (when they were swept 3-0 by Maccabi) while their opponents Hapoel Jerusalem have been to the finals 6 times and lost every time (all 6 defeats were at the hands of Maccabi, the most recent being an 80-78 loss in the one-off 2008 final).
That upset by Eilat is the latest in a string of crashes by teams with A licences in Euroleague before the finals stage in their own leagues. Pinar Karsiyaka have been the most famed giant-killers of the summer with their 3-1 series win over Fenerbahce leading calls for the Turkish club to be included in Euroleague next season (not least from this site) and they now hold a 3-1 lead over another A licence club, Anadolu Efes, in the finals. The ease of viewing Karsiyaka’s victory internationally through the DigiTurk service brought more eyes to the club from the suburbs of Izmir than most but they are far from the lone side to slay giants this post-season.
The most unlikely upset in terms of how it played out was probably the one most observers deemed possible beforehand. I know that’s clunky but so were Dinamo Sassari who made life incredibly hard for themselves in dispatching Olimpia Milano. Sassari ran into a quick 3-1 series lead over the Italian club with an A licence before dropping Game 5 and Game 6. It looked like they had blown a clear chance at a title run but they rallied to take Game 7 and ensure that, like Israel, there would be a first time champion in Italy this season. Sassari and Reggio Emilia are both in the finals for the first time ever. As it currently stands, Reggio Emilia leads the series 2-0 with Game 3 at Sassari tonight.