Basketball-Gasol reaches Euroleague final as Barca edge Milan

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·3 min read
Basketball - Euroleague Final Four - CSKA Moscow v Anadolu Efes
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COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) -Double NBA champion Pau Gasol reached the first Euroleague final of his trophy-laden career as Barcelona edged Armani Milan 84-82 in a riveting clash on Friday to set up a title showdown with Anadolu Efes Istanbul.

Gasol, who won back to back titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and 2010, will head into Sunday's clash with Efes after losing to the Turkish side in the 2000 Euroleague third-place match during his first stint with Barcelona.

The iconic 40-year old centre, who won the 2006 world championship and three European titles with Spain, contributed to his boyhood club's win with a superb cameo appearance in the first half.

Gasol rolled back the years to score 10 points in five frantic minutes as Barcelona clinched the roller-coaster clash after Cory Higgins nailed a mid-range shot with eight hundreths of a second left on the clock.

Milan had roared back from an 11-point deficit to lead 67-59 late in the third quarter but Barcelona forced the final twist in the home straight thanks to 21 points and six rebounds from former Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic.

"We were 10 points up and then they came back and turned the match on its head but we found a way to win," Mirotic told Euroleague television.

"We know the job is not done because there is one more game left. It's been a long season but this team fight and sticks together. We need one more performance."

EFES REVENGE

Efes advanced with an 89-86 win over CSKA Moscow in the opening semi-final after fending off a late rally from the holders to avenge defeat by the Russian giants in the 2019 championship game.

With last year's Final Four of Europe's premier basketball club competition scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Efes will be vying for their first Euroleague title after Serbian guard Vasilije Micic racked up 25 points and six assists.

CSKA, who have won eight Euroleague titles, came storming back in the final 10 minutes from a 21-point deficit thanks to Will Clyburn who finished with a game-high 26 points and seven rebounds.

But Clyburn missed a clutch three-pointer in his team's final possession and Shane Larkin sank one of two free throws at the other end with half a second remaining to seal the win.

Micic, who was drafted by NBA franchise Oklahoma City Thunder in December, was relieved his team mates were able to hold on in the dying minutes after he fouled out of the game.

"It was tough to watch from the bench and I am very glad we have such a good team," said Micic.

"The most important thing was to win and we made it. I tried to push the team early on and give us some pace but in the end I didn't have enough left in the tank."

(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris)