Credit: Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Credit Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

It was supposed to be a nice Friday evening, after a warm November day for the Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul fans at Ulker Sports Arena. It was the end of a series of tough games where Fenerbahce played against Real Madrid, Barcelona, Olympiacos, CSKA, and finally, Milan.

Player of the Game
Nicolo  Melli
EFF
17
Nicolo Melli
Points 6
Accuracy 3-4
Rebounds 6
Assists 0

The traffic jam around the stadium was a strong indicator that the fans have finally found some signs to believe in their team after a flashy win against CSKA in Moscow. You could fill the buzz in Atasehir and among the fans, who could finally fill the stands after canceling spectator quotas.

But hope was beginning the fade just minutes after the tip-off.

"They started the game pretty well, Sasa Djordjevic admitted after the game. "We could find any points in the first quarter, and that set the tone of the game after that. There were some incredible three-pointers. I take responsibility for that kind of loss. I won't blame the players."

 

 

 

Djordjevic was well aware that it was hard to keep his team together after THAT first quarter. Sincerely speaking, there are not many worse ways to start a game. They missed first their first five field goals, but it was the turnovers that really hurt them. Upon Milano pressure, the offense crumbled without having a chance a clean look to the rim. 

Credit Uygar Karaca

Fenerbahce's first score came out of a free throw by Jan Vesely, but as we all would learn soon, there was not much working for the home side tonight. Even the rim's net was malfunctioning, so that some of the game had to stop for five minutes to fix it.

In other words, almost 15 real minutes have passed, and Fenerbahce fans were still waiting for a field goal. The very optimistic mode of the crowd was suddenly sliding into panic mode. Not a loss was already seen on the horizon. But a heavy defeat was on the table. 

Points this season

47%
71,1
Points made: 71,1
Accuracy: 46,8%
Place in standings: 14
Record max: 91
Record min: 43
Best scorer: Jan Vesely

It was Sehmus Hazer who broke the jinx of missing shots, 0:57 left on the clock, but Milano has already carried the score to 19-1.

This was not a college game, played between visibly unbalanced sides in the first month of the NCAA season. This was a top-level EuroLeague matchup. And all Fenerbahce could get from an entire quarter was 3 points. That's all. This was one of the 'longest' quarters of Fenerbahce's EuroLeague history. 

Slow starts and offensive stalls are not something new for Fenerbahce. Against Olympiacos and Real Madrid, they started with 14 and 15 points; against Barcelona, they could not protect the early lead after a 9 point second quarter.

Even the record-breaking win against Unics, Fenerbahce could score 5 points in the first 5 minutes. In the very first game of the season, a shorthanded Crvena Zvezda defense managed to keep Fenerbahce with 10 points in the second quarter. 

Despite these worrying displays, Djordjevic kept his faith in the process in his earlier comments: "We are a work in progress. We created some really good shots. We had some open guys on the perimeter, if we could score from those open shots, the game would have been different."  

Currently, the progress looks suspended. CSKA and Panathinaikos games remained the only ones where Fenerbahce got beyond 1 point per possession, and the low-possession offense remained very conservative with 59 field goal attempts per game (bottom 5 of the league), while 3 point shooting is mediocre with 35% (8th in the EL).

The inefficiency with the pick and rolls and the lack of systematic off-screen shot creation held them as predictable in the offensive setup. Milano is a top-five Euroleague team when it comes to defensive ratings, so this was a foreseeable collapse. 

The rest of the game against Milano was really a struggle for everyone; the players, the fans, and certainly, Djordjevic. The offensive collapse brought defensive collapse, which rendered the night from a regular nightmare into "A Nightmare on the Elm Street" type.

The defensive side has always been one good part of Djordjevic's Fenerbahce until last night. That 25-9 third quarter was a surrender. 

"This could have been different. We had a lot of deficiencies in our game. On the contrary, Milano had a lot of desire to win, and they gave an immense effort. We have another game in a few days, so we need to regain our energy to get ready for that one." lamented Djordjevic. 

The Serbian coach pointing the lack of energy, and in terms of that aspect, Sehmus Hazer was the only player who got applause from the crowd. The young point guard who joined Besiktas last summer brought a certain dynamic from the bench, as he is regularly doing for the last 3-4 games in the EuroLeague.

It was the only time the fans chanted a name of a player for this game. And it was Sehmus. He scored 9 points, with 2 assists and steals. His best individual contribution in EuroLeague, despite the 3 fouls he had at the end of the first half. 

"We made a good start to the second quarter," said Hazer. "But then we turned back to those simple mistakes. And our opponent punished us as a result. My energy did not have an overall impact on the game. I'm trying my best as much as I can. Eventually, it was a bad game for us. We need to fix this."

But even Sehmus and his trademark move to drive the crowd crazy with an explosive dunk was contained by a familiar name: Nicolo Melli; who knows exactly what the crowd's momentum could bring to the home side in Atakoy. He simply rejected that.

Regarding other individual performances, there was not much to mention in a positive manner. In the pre-game interview, Marko Guduric was expecting a continuation of the improvement that they had in the last two games.

Not even close. Guduric shot 1/5 behind the arc. An out-of-rhythm Nando De Colo, on the other hand, was 1/7 from the field.

Fenerbahce lost in a devastating manner, with their worst offensive output ever. But perhaps, what worries the fans is not the results and negative records.

Collapses could occur in today's basketball to almost any team in any competition, in this overwhelming packed scheduled era of basketball. 

The worrying part was probably the way it happened. The timing was also unfortunate because right after the CSKA game, a fledgling hope blossomed among the fans.

Suddenly, there were reasons to believe that the luck was finally coming back after those numerous games lost with a single possession. Not tonight. 

 

 

Perhaps, the protest 'booing' that came after that last airball from Pierria Henry had something to do with this disappointment. He was the leading scorer with 12 points, but his 4 turnovers hindered a better impression.

However, the fans' dissatisfaction with the guards' performances that Fenerbahce acquired is not something new. Last season, Lorenzo Brown was heavily criticized and became kind of a scapegoat for many of the bad things that took place. Is Henry next? Only time will tell.

At the end of the day, basketball is a team effort. Without any cohesion and ill-advised organization, even the best players could suffer individually.

In an earlier quote, Djordjevic stated that simple basketball is the most beautiful basketball. Well, last night, Fenerbahce remained too simple. But at the same time, there is still a lot of time to fix things.

One away win against Bayern or Zalgiris could give them breathing space, and with full capacity crowds, they could change the season as they did in the last season. They just need to support the individual talent level with a decent organization.

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Stambulo Fenerbahce
Milano Armani Exchange
32%
17/53
Field goals
43%
26/60
31
Rebounds
40
12
Assists
18
12
Steals
10
1
Blocks
4
37
Efficiency
87

Best players

Pierria  Henry
12 PTS
4/7 FG
2/5 FT
Shavon  Shields
13 PTS
5/10 FG
0/0 FT
Ahmet  Duverioglu
8 REB
6 DREB
2 OREB
AX Armani Exchange Milan
Few players
6 REB
Fenerbahce Istanbul
Few players
3 As
Sergio  Rodriguez
7 As
5 TO
17 MIN
Jan  Vesely
21 EFF
75% 2P%
0% 3P%
Nicolo  Melli
17 EFF
75% 2P%
- 3P%