Euroleague holders Fenerbahce Istanbul reached the premier club basketball competition's final after overpowering Lithuania's Zalgiris Kaunas 76-67 on Friday. The Turkish side will lock horns in Sunday's title showdown with either CSKA Moscow or Real Madrid, who meet in the second semi-final in the Belgrade Arena.
Roared on by 10,000 fervent supporters, Fenerbahce prevailed thanks to an ironclad defence coupled with a game-high 19 points from playmaker Ali Muhamed. They forced 20 turnovers by Zalgiris and restricted them to two three-pointers from 10 attempts as they carved out a 50-37 lead midway through the third quarter. Zalgiris, who were cheered by around 1,000 fans including Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite donning the team's green-and-white scarf, responded with an 11-0 run to set up a see-saw final period.
Fenerbahce upped the tempo and pulled away to 66-54 on the back of the individual skill of Muhamed who netted 12 points in quick succession as he nailed a pair of three-pointers and a flurry of layups. Zalgiris scored six unanswered points to restore a glimmer of hope but they ran out of steam and Fenerbahce closed the game out comfortably.
'We played aggressive defence to cancel out their long-range shooting and fan support was also vital,' Fenerbahce's Serbian forward Nikola Kalinic told reporters. 'Muhamed was inspired, we know he is an outstanding player with the ability to swing matches and that's what he did.'