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

One should never underestimate the sense of irony of the basketball gods.

Player of the Game
Sertac  Sanli
Sertac Sanli
Points 24
Accuracy 9-11
Rebounds 3
Assists 1

Imagine a coach who helped a player develop himself to jump for the next level, and in a year or so, you see the same player destroying your team with some big shots. That was the fate that Efes assistant coach, Yakup Sekizkok, had to face. 

New FC Barcelona signing Sertac Sanli just scored career-high 24 points with 4/5 3 FG shooting and led his team to a very demonstrative overtime win against Anadolu Efes Istanbul, the club he became the Euroleague champion. 

In his first visit home with a new club, many welcomed him, and he did not even have much time to spend some time with his family because of fan interest.

This could have been an emotionally challenging return for Sertac, but he did not even blink while sending those big shots. 

"Sertac was one of the best centers in EuroLeague last season, that's why Barcelona went for him," Sekizkok said in the press conference. "He started the game by scoring regularly, he maintained his rhythm, remained hot. He also used the space created by Mirotic and their smaller players with the open shots. He was excellent tonight." 

But it was not the only strange late-game situation that Sekizkok had to deal with.

You can never be sure about the assistant coaches' wide spectrum of tasks. They sometimes prepare the game plan, make some video analyses. Sometimes, they have to save the games, too.

When Ergin Ataman got that second technical foul and was ejected 2:45 left in OT, Barcelona was up by 3 points, and Sekizkok had to burst into the driving seat with an obligation to lead Efes towards victory.

Nikola Mirotic

Nikola  Mirotic
Nikola  Mirotic
MIN: 24.18
PTS: 16.46 (67.06%)
REB: 5.46
As: 1.38
ST: 1
BL: 0.23
TO: 1.23
GM: 13

For Sekizkok, it was almost like a deja-vu after the similar scenario he experienced against Panathinaikos in Round 6. But this time, it was a heavier burden as Efes played one of the toughest games in the season in front of a 15,000 jubilant home crowd.

"After the technical fouls, the game became even tougher," noted Sekizkok.

"It was a close one for both teams after that. We did our best, and we fought back both defense and in the offense. But those offensive fouls, in the end, were very destructive. 

All in all, one shot makes a huge difference. But we could not stop Kuric's 3-pointer after the timeout, who uses the screens very well. After that, Jokubaitis drove and finished with and-one. We could not stop those plays. We will try our best to win the rematch in Barcelona," Sekizkok added.

Once again, Barcelona's guard rotation lacked important names as Alex Abrines, Nick Calathes, and Cory Higgins were absent due to injury.

Efes capitalized on Barcelona's slow start in the offense. Starting with the 2nd quarter, the hosts took control of the scoreboard with double-digit differences.

Barcelona's definite comeback was denied numerous times until Jasikevicius' made one final definitive push to get back in the lead late in the 4th quarter.

"We did many things well in defense in the first half," Sekizkok said. "In the second half, they changed their defensive strategy and started switching. We survived that, and we kept ourselves ahead of the game, around 6-7 points. But their offensive rebounds which were converted putbacks and kick-outs after offensive rebounds were converted into three-point shots."

In fact, the rebounding department became a huge problem for Efes.

When Chris Singleton had to end his Euroleague record with 214 consecutive game appearances last evening, Barcelona used the opportunity to thrive with 16 offensive boards. The 14-second chance points turned out to be a game-changer.

"Chris Singleton's absence affected us negatively, for sure," Sekizkok emphasized.

"Especially with the rebounds. Moerman is a good fighter and an important player for us. He had to overextend his minutes due to the circumstances which can happen in some games. But our opponent is Barcelona, and this was a game that went to overtime.

They played with lots of rotations; Mirotic, Smits, and Hayes-Davis played as 4. We tried to deploy Petrusev as power forwards, but that is not his natural position. That was not easy for him to adopt. Physically, it became challenging for us," he added.

There were a lot of improvised tweaks and adjustments for both sides. Jasikevicius sought to slow down Efes' scoring engaging scoring mechanism that reached 47 points by a change of defensive strategy. 

In contrast with their usual habit of covering pick and rolls by going over the screen, Barcelona surprised Shane Larkin and Vasilje Micic in the pick and rolls by occasional switching and soft hedging. 

Vasilje Micic (26 points) and Shane Larkin (14 points) contributed with 40 points regardless of these trickery moves, and five players produced double-digit scoring. Still, Efes' offensive composure was indeed broken in the final stretch as they could only score 25 points in the last quarter and overtime combined.

Even Micic's usual big shot-making routine, activated in the last 50 seconds by a big three, fell short of pulling off an overtime victory. 

One of the interesting decisions was Efes not fouling in the penultimate possession of Barcelona, 30 seconds remaining in the OT. Krunoslav Simon came out for a double-team trap and refrained from fouling, but Barcelona did not panic and calmly moved the ball. With that 4 points advantage, they ran the clock, which was all they wished for.

With utmost sincerity, Sekizkok explained what actually happened in that sequence.

"Our first plan was to steal the ball. But we couldn't, and then we had to foul. The refs did not call those tiny fouls, and we were late to stop the clock. You need to make more demonstrative fouls in those types of situations, some determination was surely needed," he explained.

"However, I would like to note that it was not easy to engineer a foul in those types of situations because it was a live-ball situation following a rebound. If it was an out-of-bounds play, that would have been different," Sekizkok concluded.

Both teams had to finish the game without important players (Mirotic for Barca and Larkin for Efes) due to foul-outs, Barcelona remained undefeated in their 8th away game in a row.

The Catalans share the top-two places with Real Madrid (both 11-2), and Efes are still out of playoff spots with 6-7 (10th place).

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Stambulo Anadolu Efes
Barselonos FC Barcelona
Field goals

Best players

Vasilije  Micic
26 PTS
7/13 FG
9/11 FT
Sertac  Sanli
24 PTS
9/11 FG
2/4 FT
Adrien  Moerman
Nikola  Mirotic
Shane  Larkin
6 As
1 TO
34 MIN
Nicolas  Laprovittola
8 As
3 TO
31 MIN
Vasilije  Micic
31 EFF
50% 2P%
60% 3P%
Sertac  Sanli
25 EFF
83% 2P%
80% 3P%