It’s the game nobody wants to play in and few want to watch. CSKA looked well on course for a blowout but a Fener rally in the second half made for a surprisingly exciting finish.
The third place game got off to an uninspired start, CSKA went up 12-0 before Fenerbahce got off the mark. Then the Russians moved to 22-4 before Andrew Goudelock showed some pride by draining three threes to make it a somewhat more respectable 27-13 at the end of the first frame.
It’s no secret that this game is pointless. The players are less than 48 hours removed from losing their shot at the championship and they give the fight for third place the lack of respect one might expect. At least in national team tournaments, well really just the Olympics, the concept of taking bronze has some cache. Here, it’s a bunch of dudes not wanting to get hurt before they play far more important games back in their home leagues.
Fenerbahce’s supporters were at least in good song en route to the arena, they livened up proceedings at Teatro Royal before making their way in to watch a schlockfest. Euroleague isn’t going to dump this game anytime soon, they want to ensure the fans get as many games for their money as possible but practice is more legitimate than the ball we see in this match. Obradovic was even sitting for part of the first quarter. Milos Teodosic didn’t even dress for the game.
At the half it was 48-24 to CSKA. I was late back to my seat for the third quarter. The discussion of who goes where next season was a touch more interesting than this game although it meant I had missed the start of a wild rally by Fenerbahce. A 31 point quarter meant they had cut CSKA’s lead to 66-55 endting the final frame.
The one positive from this game was that CSKA and Fener’s supporters, at least those who hadn’t sold their tickets to Olympiacos fans, decided to treat this game more seriously than their players and were in full song throughout.
Fener, having been in a 24 point hole at the half, were suddenly making a game of it and Semih Erden made it a one-possession game with 6.12 to play. Nikos Zisis tied it up on the next possession. While Friday was a collapse, this seemed more a case of CSKA switching off for the second half after Fener had phoned in the first.
Goudelock, who had enjoyed another high-scoring outing with 24 points, fouled out with 1.32 to play and Nando De Colo pushed CSKA into a 4 point lead from the line. That proved to be the end of Fenerbahce’s challenge as CSKA held on.