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Nocioni's toughness helps Madrid finally capture Euroleague crown

MADRID (Turkish Airlines Euroleague/2015 FIBA Americas Championship) - Andres Nocioni is going to have a smile on his face for the foreseeable future.

On Sunday, the Argentina international claimed one of the biggest honors of his career, the MVP award at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four, after leading Real Madrid to glory for the first time since 1995.

In Madrid's 96-87 triumph over Fenerbahce Ulker in the Semi-Finals on Friday, the 35-year-old Nocioni had 12 points, six rebounds and a block while in Sunday's 78-59 triumph over Olympiacos, a game that was much closer than the final score indicated, Nocioni contributed 12 points, seven rebounds and a couple of swats.

'Chapu', a lynchpin in the Argentina squad for more than a decade who famously helped the side reach the 2002 FIBA Basketball World Cup Final and then capture gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, has still got it.

The Santa Fe-born forward can still make game-winning contributions at a very high level.

When asked after Sunday's Final by Euroleague TV what made Nocioni a special player, Madrid coach Pablo Laso pointed to his heart.

I tried to play 'D' and try to make my team better with other things. - Nocioni

The veteran brought an undeniable energy and toughness to the team whenever he was on the court in the two wins at the Final Four, especially on defense.

"This is what I tried to do," Nocioni said immediately after receiving his honor.

"We have a lot of talent here.

"I think sometimes when someone comes and brings toughness to a team, this is what I tried to do."

After two straight years of reaching the final but losing to Olympiacos (2013) and Maccabi Tel Aviv (2014), Madrid brought in a champion to help the team get over the hump.

Nocioni rewarded them handsomely.

"Sometimes it's good to freshen up the team," he said. 

"Sometimes it's good to bring new pieces to the team.

"Our mind is fresh.

"I never played in the final so for me, it was the first final and I enjoyed the first final."

Nocioni said recently that, good health permitting, he would like to play for Argentina at the FIBA Americas Championship in Mexico.

He certainly made a positive difference for his national team at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain, when Argentina finished second in Group B and advanced to the Round of 16.

At this summer's event, which will be staged from 31 August to 12 September in Mexico City, the two sides that reach the Final will qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez was monitoring events in Madrid and was among those to praise Nocioni.