If there was ever any doubt that Vasilije Micic deserved the season’s Most Valuable Player award that he received with great emotion earlier this week, those question marks were well and truly erased when the powerful point guard inspired Anadolu Efes Istanbul into a thrilling 89-86 victory over CSKA Moscow in Friday’s opening semifinal.
Micic started as he meant to continue, scoring his team’s first basket to cancel out an early 2-0 CSKA lead. Efes was never behind again from that moment on and Micic was a major reason why. The star guard’s totals of 25 points and 6 assists speak for themselves and the timing of his contributions was also crucial. After scoring that opening basket, Micic mainly shined as a provider by orchestrating a free-flowing offense that raced into a double-digit lead before the end of the first quarter. He dished 4 assist during that opening period and added another couple of baskets before continuing to take charge in the second quarter.
After the game, Micic admitted that he had made a special effort to give his team an early boost, saying: “Today I tried a little bit to push at the beginning to give the pace to the team.”
He certainly succeeded in that aim and early in the second half he enjoyed another decisive burst of action – starting straight after the break when he took Efes’s opening possession and sank an off-balance three-pointer with a foul, which he duly converted to complete a momentum-building 4-point play. Before long, Micic grabbed a defensive rebound and took it all the way to score again and then drew fouls to net from the line to give his team a game-high 21 point lead which eventually, despite CSKA’s brilliant late rally, was enough to win the game.
Friday’s victory was, of course, by no means a one-man job. Micic had plenty of help in the backcourt from Rodrigue Beaubois, who hit 3 triples in the opening quarter – with 2 of them coming from Micic assists – to help establish Efes’s big lead and then produced two key late baskets to help repel CSKA’s comeback, while Sertac Sanli was an outstanding inside presence with 19 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.
But the importance of Micic was reflected in another stat: before fouling out with a couple of minutes remaining he spent nearly 36 minutes on the court, more than any other player. That illustrates the unwavering trust shown in Micic by Coach Ergin Ataman and underlines that, in more ways than one, he truly is Efes’s Most Valuable Player.