Celebrating the best FIBA 3x3 World Tour games of 2020
MIES (Switzerland) - It was a shortened FIBA 3x3 World Tour season but there was enough action during the five events in 2020 to make a Fast and Furious movie.
Here are the best games of this crazy 2020:
Ub vs Novi Sad (Hungary Masters)
Ub (SRB), formerly known as Vrbas, were major underdogs against powerhouse Novi Sad, who wanted to redeem themselves after a semi-final exit at the Debrecen Masters.
The four-time World Tour winners had good reason to feel confident with the world's best player Dusan Bulut recapturing his brilliance after shaking off the rust from a subpar season debut.
But this was a memorable Serbian showdown with Ub not intimidated by their mighty compatriots. They stormed out to a big early lead through the hot shooting of Miroslav Pasajlic and then came an inevitable Bulut-led Novi Sad comeback.
Scores were level at 18 apiece and this is when the experience and class of Novi Sad was expected to shine. But Pasajlic went bang and then hit the Tissot Buzzer Beater coldly in the face of Bulut after a nasty step back.
It was a magical upset for the seventh seed.
Riga vs Ub (Hungary Masters)
Underdog Ub were not content with simply making the final. They wanted more upsets and had Riga in their sights. Ivan Popovic was unstoppable on offense, while Ub played terrific team defense to limit the superhero duo of Karlis Lasmanis and Nauris Miezis.
But the Latvians are far more than just their two superstars. Edgars Krumins stepped up with hot shooting and Riga took command with a 20-17 lead.
But Ub wouldn't go away and a Popovic two-piece tied the scores at 20. Popovic had the chance to win it all but his long bomb missed. Riga weren't going to let Ub have another crack as Miezis scored from close range to seal the deal and end Ub's incredible giant-killing run.
Lausanne Katapult vs Piran (Europe Masters)
The Europe Masters was lit. And it started with an unbelievable quarter-final between much-hyped Lausanne Katapult and maestros Piran.
Speedy Gonzales Gilles Martin and Slovenian master Simon Finzgar had a battle royale in this entertaining contest. Finzgar aka 'The Sphinx' returned from the grave to inch Piran close to victory but Martin went bang and OT was needed.
The Sphinx lost his nerve from the free-throw line and it proved fatal. You don't give Martin a chance - the Swiss don't miss. He pulled out the double cross to end Piran's dreams as Lausanne lived up to the hype on this occasion.
Novi Sad vs NY Harlem (Europe Masters)
Novi Sad and NY Harlem have had good battles in the past but this epic might take the cake. It's hard to find two more fun teams and the New Yorkers were putting the moves on thanks to Dominique Jones, while Marcel Esonwune preferred the aerial route.
NY Harlem had a big early lead but the Serbs expectedly came back thanks to the hot shooting of Dejan Majstorovic, who was certainly 'the Maestro' with a game-high 11 points.
Novi Sad came back from a 6-point hole to eventually tie the scores at 20 apiece. In a game filled with superstars who would step up in the clutch? It was Joey King who wore the crown with a tough turnaround jumper to ensure Novi Sad left Hungary emptyhanded.
Lausanne Katapult vs Sakiai (Europe Masters)
Sakiai - last year's breakout team - had a tough start to the season but bounced back at the Europe Masters and faced dangerous Lausanne Katapult.
Gilles Martin and Westher Molteni were too hot to handle but Sakiai weren't short on talent either. Paulius Beliavicius was firing on all cylinders and Sakiai had the advantage down low, where Aurelijus Pukelis stuffed it down for the 20-19 lead.
Lausanne's Marco Lehmann could have been the hero from the line but he blinked once. The Lithuanians went back to Pukelis who made no mistake as Sakiai continued their return to form.
But it was more heartbreak for Lausanne, who are still searching for their first Masters title.
Riga vs Liman (Doha Masters)
This rematch of last year's Doha final had more hype than Wonder Woman 1984 and the stakes were huge ahead of the World Tour Final.
The game was a see-saw battle with Karlis Lasmanis taking flight early before the Serbs flexed their muscle with a powerful 9-3 run. Liman were on the brink of their third title of the season leading 20-15.
Think it's over? Think again! Riga made the most of Liman's foul trouble and an Edgars Krumins bucket got them within one. After Liman missed chances, Batman came to Riga's rescue. In an insane 3x3 finish, Lasmanis called game - and the title - with a huge Tissot Buzzer Beater as Riga repeated as champs in Doha.
Amazingly, things were going to get even crazier between the two foes.
Riga vs Liman (Jeddah Final)
Fittingly, the World Tour's showpiece event came down to the two dominant teams this season - Riga and Liman.
It's been a tough year for everyone and we all deserved some cheer to end 2020 - and these two great teams delivered in spades.
Riga, the master in this matchup and with a swagger after Doha, stormed to an early lead but were pegged back by their arch-rivals. The two teams traded blows like heavyweight fighters but Liman had the edge and a 20-18 lead.
Once again, they were just one point away from the title but Riga do not buckle under pressure. Nauris Miezis cut the deficit to one but Liman still had the World Tour Final in their hands.
Liman had numerous chances to score the title-winning bucket - including an agonizing near missed layup from Stefan Kojic - but came up short.
With 11.8 seconds left, the Latvians had possession and everyone wondered if it would be Lasmanis or Miezis to take the biggest shot in Riga's history. It was Miezis aka 'Robin' who put his cape on and sank the incredible Tissot Buzzer Beater - arguably the best ever shot in 3x3 history.
Riga celebrated their first ever World Tour Final title and ensured 2020 ended on a memorable note for 3x3 fans - just not for unlucky Liman and their devastated supporters.