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

Back in mid-October, Anadolu Efes' departure from Atasehir was gloomy.

Player of the Game
Shane  Larkin
Shane Larkin
Points 25
Accuracy 8-12
Rebounds 1
Assists 7

Away from home and in the absence of Krunoslav Simon, Vasilje Micic, Filip Petrusev, and James Anderson, Efes could not respond to Fenerbahce's enthusiasm to topple their city rivals in a blowout win.

On that day, Efes lost their third game in a row in all competitions. Eyebrows were raised, questions were aroused.

Last night, the roles were changed in the very same arena.

Despite trailing by 12 with 8:00 minutes left in the game, Anadolu Efes managed to pull away a comeback win and extended their winning series to six in all competitions.

This was Fenerbahce's fourth Euroleague loss in a row.

The game was peculiar because Fenerbahce could not capitalize on the double-digit margins that they held on multiple occasions. In total, Anadolu Efes managed to erase 31 points differential (12-7-12). Still, head coach Ergin Ataman was not entirely convinced with his team.

"Tonight, the quality of basketball was not too high for both teams," Ataman noted. "For 3 quarters, we made a lot of turnovers in the offense. We struggled with our set offense which led to easy transition baskets from Fenerbahce."

As the numbers suggest, it was impossible to disagree with Ataman on his assessment of the game quality.

Efes was 0-7 behind the arc until Rodrigue Beaubois finished the drought at the very end of the 1st quarter. They lifted the 3 FG accuracy to 9/27 (33%), but if we leave Shane Larkin's (4/8) explosion aside, that is actually a mere 5/19 (26%).

Aside from inefficient shooting from the range, Efes made 16 turnovers, which gifted Fenerbahce 19 extra points with easy layups and open 3-pointers in transitions.

2-pointers this season

Points made: 20,1
Accuracy: 56,0%
Place in standings: 7
Record max: 28
Record min: 14
Most made 2FGs: Tibor Pleiss

In addition to that, Fenerbahce grabbed 12 offensive boards that were converted into 17 points as well.

When things were are this messy, good coaches do the thing that they are always good at trusting their gut feelings.

"Starting with the second quarter, I saw that Larkin was in shape tonight," Ataman noted.

"Under these given circumstances, we chose to play with the players like Micic, Larkin, and Beaubois more extensively, who are more suitable for this type of chaotic basketball."

Ataman also shared his delight to see Larkin re-integrated into the offensive setup. 

"In the last quarter, Larkin played like a star. For us, this is more than one victory because Larkin contributed to us for a great win. This would be very important for our future," Ataman said.

Indeed. Larkin came back to the stage just in time when Micic and Beaubois were struggling from the field, and Efes' needed him dearly in the offensive end. 19 of his season-high 25 points came in the second half. 

"Probably my best EuroLeague performance of the season. I got into the rhythm early, and in the 4th quarter, I made some big shots for the team, but my teammates set to make good screens and pass me the ball to be successful in these situations," Larkin said.

Apart from scoring, there were other flashy individual stats found in the boxscore for Larkin: 7 assists, 2 steals, 4/4 2FG, and 4/8 3 FG shooting. But he is well aware that all of these would not mean much if Efes did not win tonight. 

Make no mistake, it was not a smooth game for Larkin, either. Early in the last quarter, he was called a technical foul after claiming to be hit by an elbow. It looks like that totally fired him up.

He sent a tough 3-pointer right after the call, stole the ball in the next possession, and provided the assist for Micic for another 3. 

That was followed by two more clutch shots from outside and an assist for Moerman's and-one play. 

With 40 seconds left on the clock, he exploited the mismatch against Booker to make a quick drive to finally carry Efes into the lead.

"I got an elbow in the mouth when De Colo drove to the basket. I don't think he intended to do it but still. When I tell the ref about it, he says he didn't see it. Whatever.

Everybody makes mistakes but regardless of wherever you are, getting an elbow in the mouth is a foul. So it definitely made me a little bit angry," Larkin noted.

In the meantime, Vasilje Micic struggled almost for the entire night. Missing his first 6 triples, his 6 turnovers were costly as well. Ataman was not OK with that.

"Honestly speaking, Micic pissed me off tonight. He made a lot of turnovers, and when those turnovers come from your playmaker, it leaves exposed to very difficult situations," said Ataman.

Despite all his frustration, Ataman's one decision given late in the game was decisive. Micic committed his 4th foul with 5:30 remaining on the clock.

He was on Marko Guduric in defense, who sparkled with 9 points towards the end of the third quarter and was a good candidate to become a potential game-saver.

"We don't really don't think about these things," says Micic when reflecting on the thoughts regarding that very moment. 

"When I was younger, my fouls, my turnovers, missing shots. But with experience, you learn how to stay calm. I tried to be on my best, both defensively and offensively. I went for my maximum," Micic added.

Counting on Micic's experience and quality, Ataman decided to take a risk: keeping him in the court. The Serbian Euroleague MVP did not foul out. Guduric didn't score more points. Efes won.

"In the last part of the game, we had to play with three small guards. There was pressure on Micic, so we aimed to open some space for Larkin," Ataman explains. 

"We sought to cut the concentration of Fenerbahce defense into half. We were successful on that. Larkin took the shots and dominated, but we used Micic as a screener to make them switch. We tried to use his gravity in offense to soften their defense, "Efes' head coach added.

As a side note, Micic's sub-par performances could be considered as part of a recent trend.

After the ALBA Berlin game where he scored 19, his points per possession never went beyond 1 in the EuroLeague. His 3 FG accuracy is 3/21 (14%), and his overall FG% is below 35%. 

He made 12 turnovers in the last four games (against Darussafaka and Fenerbahce). Could that be something to do with the injury problem on the knee, which kept him aside for a while? 

"No, it is not about the injury but the rhythm. You check all the players in the world, you can see bad or better periods. For me, it is the same. I try to keep the same way as I always play and be aggressive. Sometimes I am more successful, and sometimes, not.  I don't feel any pain and feel good, physically," Micic explains.

Rising to a 0.500 win ratio for the first time this season with 6-6, Ataman is already looking forward to the Barcelona game on the 3rd of December.

"We have a good rematch of last season's EuroLeague finale in the next game at home," he said. "I heard that tickets are being sold rapidly." 

He definitely has a point. A game that could never be missed in any circumstances.

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Stambulo Fenerbahce
Stambulo Anadolu Efes
Field goals

Best players

Marial   Shayok
18 PTS
7/10 FG
0/0 FT
Shane  Larkin
25 PTS
8/12 FG
5/6 FT
Achille  Polonara
Rodrigue  Beaubois
Nando De Colo
5 As
3 TO
28 MIN
Shane  Larkin
7 As
2 TO
34 MIN
Nando De Colo
19 EFF
100% 2P%
20% 3P%
Shane  Larkin
29 EFF
100% 2P%
50% 3P%