Six things we learned from FIBA 3x3 World Tour Doha Masters
DOHA (Qatar) - This season's FIBA 3x3 World Tour spectacularly opened with a thrilling Doha Masters on March 26-27.
Once again, for the third straight event, the title went down to the last play and another all-time Tissot Buzzer Beater decided the crown.
After such a crazy two-day showcase, let’s debrief with everything we learned from a spectacular Doha Masters.
Amsterdam are the real deal
Amsterdam Talent & Pro made a statement to start 2021. The always competitive Dutchmen had been a level below the very best teams of Novi Sad, Liman and Riga over the years but not anymore after winning their first ever Masters title.
There was an unknown over Amsterdam having lost retired great Jesper Jobse and playing without star Dimeo van der Horst (ankle injury). But they stormed to victory by beating the 'big three' of Novi Sad, Liman and Riga, while also defeating former Masters champs NY Harlem and Edmonton in a perfect tournament.
Amsterdam's recruitment of former Liman star Maksim Kovacevic proved a masterstroke and justified them going abroad for talent. Their success was built around chemistry - highly impressive for this new group of players - and lights out shooting led by marksman Arvin Slagter, who slaughtered opponents with a tournament-high 35 points en route to the MVP.
Opponents should fear because a new 3x3 power has emerged and Amsterdam will only get stronger.
Maksim Kovacevic is a legit 3x3 star
Maksim Kovacevic was overlooked at Liman. It's easy to see why considering their slew of talent, which includes three of the top six ranked players and Stefan Stojacic who is a walking bucket when he steps on the court.
The 1.96m (6ft 5in) Kovacevic won't be underappreciated anymore after his heroic Amsterdam debut in Doha, where he hit one of 3x3's greatest ever shots to down Novi Sad in the final.
He was a flame thrower all event and particularly clutch having also hit a Tissot Buzzer Beater against NY Harlem in an overtime quarter-final classic. Kovacevic was the second highest scorer overall with 34 points, including a game-high 13 in the final.
His experience and intangibles proved to be the missing qualities Amsterdam needed for a breakthrough title victory.
And after his fairy tale tournament, Maksim Kovacevic is now a legit 3x3 superstar.
Novi Sad are far from done
The new-look Novi Sad did not disappoint. Some critics were ready to write them off after a stunning breakup where greats Marko Savic and Dejan Majstorovic left for Ub.
Even though they lost the bragging rights to Ub in the pool stage, Novi Sad found their best once again in the knockouts with an impressive victory over two-time defending champs Riga in the semis and then coming so close in the final.
Novi Sad's offense lost none of its punch with a tournament best 19.2 points per game and they might have found their new 'Maestro' in Strahinja Milosevic, who led the team in scoring with 31 points.
His breakout performance meant Novi Sad weren't overly reliant on remaining greats Dusan Bulut and Tamas Ivosev.
It's still a work in progress but the signs were there with Novi Sad once again showcasing outstanding passing and shooting.
They are still one of the teams to beat!
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Ub have work to do
The new-look Serbian team had a mixed tournament. They had a sweet victory against Novi Sad in a blockbuster but lost a quarter-final thriller to three-man Liman.
It might be unfair to expect Ub to fire on all cylinders as they integrate new additions Majstorovic and Savic. And there was reason for optimism, particularly with Strahinja Stojacic averaging 7.3 ppg in an explosive performance.
But there are question marks over their star recruits with a lot of intrigue over smooth-shooting Majstorovic and whether his offensive struggles last year were just a one-off.
Unfortunately, he couldn't get going in his new colors averaging just 4 ppg and making only 2 of 12 two-pointers. The pressure is mounting on him to recapture his best otherwise Ub might continue to fall short.
Liman are warriors
Liman's mental toughness can never be questioned. The Serbs produced an all-time Masters victory when they won the Debrecen Masters 2019 without a sub and they came close to matching that effort in Doha.
They had to play without lead man Stefan Kojic after the first game (ankle injury too) but still made it through to the semis, where they narrowly lost to eventual champs Amsterdam.
Liman play with so much courage and pride, but they also have a strong structure that can withstand somebody going down. Alexander Ratkov and Mihailo Vasic were again reliable go-to options down low, while new recruit Nebojsa Kilijan stepped up with pick and roll action and the occasional two-point bomb.
After devastating twin defeats to Riga late last year, luck again wasn't quite on Liman's side to start the new season.
But these resilient Serbs will never complain and continue to earn much respect.
Graz are coming!
The Austrians impressed in their World Tour debut last season and they've improved further after an encouraging Doha Masters, where they reached the quarters from qualification.
In a terrific Day 1, Graz defeated American teams Princeton and NY Harlem before losing an overtime heartbreaker against defending champs Riga.
But Graz have the qualities to win a Masters at some stage this season. It's a well-balanced team with Filip Krämer, Moritz Lanegger, Matthias Linortner and Fabricio Vay all capable of heating up at any stage. Also, gotta be honest: they know how to deliver a highlight.