This coming weekend the majority of Australian basketball fans will have their television screens firmly focused on the second round of the NBA playoffs. This is understandable given the high quality basketball and daily drama that the playoffs have delivered thus far. Even more so when considering that Aussie Boomers Olympians Patty Mills and Aron Baynes are deep in championship contention with the San Antonio Spurs.
However, there is a very good reason for basketball fans, particularly Australians, to turn off ESPN this weekend and look elsewhere for their hoops fix.
Thousands of miles away from the Alamo, in one of the most dynamic cities in Europe, another Boomers Olympian will chase a championship of his own. Joe Ingles, the first Australian to wear the famous yellow and blue uniform of long time European basketball powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv, will take the floor of Milan’s famous Mediolanum Forum in pursuit of his first and the teams fifth Euroleague title.
The Euroleague Final Four is not foreign ground for the two-time Olympian, having reached the same stage with his former team FC Barcelona prior to moving to Israel this season. For Maccabi, he is one of only four players on their roster with previous Final Four experience.
Maccabi’s opponent in the semi-final round is Russian dynamos CSKA Moscow. Australian basketball fans will be familiar with CSKA, as Australian basketball icon and pioneer David Andersen helped them win two Euroleague crowns during his stint with the team in the mid to late 2000’s.
Maccabi and CSKA sport a fierce rivalry, having met 31 times in European competition, including twice previously in the Final Four back in 2006 and 2008. This season, CSKA defeated Maccabi twice, including one of Tel Aviv’s worst ever European losses, a 100-65 Top 16 thrashing in Moscow back in February. Ironically, despite the loss Ingles played perhaps his best Euroleague game for the season, posting 13 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in 35 minutes of game time, all team highs on the night.
For the season, Ingles has posted consistent numbers across the board, averaging 6.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists in the Euroleague competition, and 6.8 points, 3 boards and 2.9 dimes in the Israeli challenge.
You can watch Ingles and his Maccabi Tel-Aviv team mates take on CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague Final Four LIVE on Eurosport (Foxtel Channel 511) early on Saturday morning at 2:00am AEST.