Romanian Basketball Championship Finals are here

Sport UBB Radio

In this particular situation Finals does not refer only to the fact that there will be more games since there is a playoff series, but that there are two finals:

One for the Championship and another one for the third place which makes the competition quite exciting for 4 teams instead of two. For the latter CSO Voluntari, the Romanian Cup winner will face BCM U Pitești in which the first team to grab to wins will earn the bronze medal.

The grand final will consist of Universitatea BT Cluj, the winner of the regular season and CSM CSU Oradea, Romanian Cup runner-up and Fiba Europe Cup 3rd place. The victor of these series will be the first team to grab three wins and it will begin with two games at the Polyvalent Hall of Cluj-Napoca, then the following to matches will take place Toni Alexe Arena in Oradea. In the case of equality after 4 games, a decisive match will occur again in Cluj, since U-BT has managed to acquire home court advantage by finishing first in the regular season.

What occurred during the semifinals?

U-BT Cluj – CSO Voluntari 3-2 ( 88-83, 89-67, 95-100, 80-81, 75-56)

The semifinals series were completely different one from another.

The first one was between U-BT Cluj and CSO Voluntari, where the former were expected to qualify in minimum amount of games, but it did not turn out as such.
The opening game was a tight one with no less than 10 lead changes, Cluj’s bench points being the difference they were looking for.  With this moral advantage U-BT dominated 3 quarters of the 2nd game, ending up with a blowout win.  It seemed like another notable sweep was about to happen before the first game in Voluntari. The Ilfov based team did not give up and came determined to win the series despite having two losses. With Anthony Hickey on fire and and Devoe Joseph not far behind, Voluntari had a great comeback in the semi-finals with two impressive wins. In the very last seconds of the fourth game, Tudor Girbea had blocked Patrick Richard’s shot, thus pushing the semi-finals to game 5.

Game 5 was the first match of the season where fans were allowed to attend. This seemed to be a favorable thing to Cluj and even part of the key to victory. The first two quarters were like the series itself, tight, but U-BT had a perfect game in the second half, especially in defense with only 9 points scored by Voluntari in the last quarter.  For Cluj Andrija Stipanovic and Dontas Tarolis were definitely the players that were proven to be decisive, both in scoring and rebounding, thus being the most efficient players for the winning team.

CSM CSU Oradea – BCM U Pitești 3-0 ( 78-54, 79-59, 81-79)

The second semifinal was between Oradea, the last team to be crowned as Romanian Champions, and BCM U Pitești, a team that has not manage to qualify for the semifinals for 14 years. Pitești managed to cause an upset in the first round, when they manage to sweep CSU Sibiu, a team that was considered to have actual chances in winning the championship.
One has to remember that Oradea was a significant number of players that have been playing together for 3 years or more. A team that has focused on continuity adding no more than 3 new players this season.

While taking advance of home court, Oradea did not give in on their own turf with two games in which they have dominated Pitești, combing their collective game with the individual ability of players like Giordan Lee Watson, Aaron Broussard or  Arturas Valeika in the paint. Pitești could be noticed only with individual performances of Tony Bishop and young Romanian prospect Mihai Măciucă.

However Pitești managed to have a more decent performence while playing at home, the third game of the series, managing to lead on the scoreboard for a few minutes in the third quarter. Moreover they trailed 2 points with six seconds to go but missed a free throw, therefore Oradea sweeping the semifinal.

What to expect for the Final?

The website called this final the one that everybody expected in the last 5 years. Since the dissolution of the 11 time champions Asesoft Ploiești in 2015, Oradea and Cluj were determined to become the new reigning power of Romanian basketball. These two teams were the only ones able to win the championship, with CSM Oradea triumphing in 2016, 2018 and 2019 while U-BT Cluj had their fair share in 2017.  However these two teams never met in the final act. In 2016 they met in the semifinals with Oradea winning 3-1, the following year it was Cluj’s turn 3-2 that series being called the semifinals’ final, and last but not least in 2019 when Oradea managed again to end the series 3-1.

The final that was expected for quite a while is finally happening.

U-BT Cluj

The main advantages of this team revolves around the individual ability of the following players: Adrija Stipanovic, the main rebounder of the team, Donatas Tarolis, an all-around Lithuanian that can shoot and dunk, Karel Guzman one of the most athletic players of the championship with great defensive skills and last but not least Stefan Grasu, a 17 year old that can both shoot from long distance and dominate in the paint.

Another advantage Cluj has is the fact that they have home court advantage where the fans’ support will be provided, an asset that in many situations has been proven to be useful, especially when Sepcile Rosii cheer for team.

CSM CSU Oradea

Oradea is a team that had never had radical changes in the past seasons, with the same coach for more than a decade that always focused on continuity. Players like Giordan Watson, Dragan Zekovic or Tudor Fometescu have been the main engine of the team since 2018. With the dominant power forward Nikola Markovic and skilled players like Aaron Broussard or Stephen Holt Oradea is team to be reckon with.

The collective game of CSM is the most efficient in the championship since this team did not loose any games in national competitions since the begining of April, having only one loss which occurred in the semifinals of the Fiba Europe Cup against the champions of Poland, Stal Slam Ostrow. Moreover Oradea will have fan support at their away game as well.

It would be hard to determine which team will be crown as champions, this final being predicted by some to have a decisive game 5.

Image source: Liga Națională de Baschet
Alexandru-Ioan Popa

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