Credit: D.Repečka/BasketNews
Credit D.Repečka/BasketNews

"Jan Vesely, Ucalım Vesely" (Let's Fly Vesely)

Points this season

Points made: 70,2
Accuracy: 42,7%
Place in standings: 18
Record max: 93
Record min: 50
Best scorer: Simone Fontecchio

The classic chant of the Jan Vesely era was once again echoing around the Ulker Sports Arena. It is a sport-related adaptation of a famous song in Turkey (Athena-Arsiz Gonul). And he enjoyed that, too. 

"Honestly, there are not many other Turkish songs that I know. Only this one," confesses Vesely after the game.

I don't think that Fenerbahce Beko fans would complain about that at all as soon as he keeps flying.

Fenerbahce literally flies in terms of results as the double game week ended perfectly in Istanbul with the win against Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz 75-53. Playoffs spots are not reached yet, but Fenerbahce is much closer now in 11th place.

"Happy for the win. Very important for us to confirm unity, togetherness, a defensive effort that we hoped for at the beginning of this year, said Sasha Djordjevic. "This was really a game that was won with team defense. Guys were very locked in." 

As Djordjevic's words suggest, once again, the defensive integrity of Fenerbahce became a huge factor for a relatively comfortable win.

No Baskonia player other than Steven Enoch (14 pts, 8 rebs) reached double-digit scoring as Baskonia finished with 18-50 shooting from the field with 19 turnovers. 12 of them were direct steals.

Baskonia coach Neven Spajiha was in a mood of desperation with his team's struggles for tonight's game.

"We are far away from serious basketball this week, both against Efes and Fenerbahce," said the Croatian.

"I think we have to learn from this and find out why we play such bad offense. I'm already tired of speaking about so many turnovers, 9 players committed turnovers.

Jan Vesely

Jan  Vesely
Team: Fenerbahce Istanbul
Position: C
Age: 31
Height: 211 cm
Weight: 109 kg
Birth place: Ostrava, Czech Republic

When you have 19 turnovers, you cannot organize the offense. We played way better games, I have to find out why there are so many ups and downs between our performances," he continued.

For tonight's game, Fenerbahce's pick and roll defense and painted zone coverage played a big part in that.  

Baskonia attempted 50 field goals, and 11 of them were pick&roll ball handler attacks. Only four of them were successful. Baskonia could only shoot with 29% (4-14) accuracy near to the rim. 

This was the continuation of a trend for Fenerbahce's defense. Fenerbahce let just five 2-pointers out of 30 attempts after pick-rolls in the last four games. Tonight, Baskonia guards like Wade Baldwin and Jayson Granger kept turning back from the Fener wall in the backcourt. 

"My belief is defense is winning titles, and the offense is winning games," says Djordjevic.

"One of our strengths is the defense that we showed like tonight. But of course, basketball is played on both sides of the court. Let's not forget that offensive execution is something that we need to do better," Djordjevic added.

Indeed. The good defense brought good offense, too. Regarding the latter aspect, Fenerbahce had some worrisome displays in the early part of the season. When the negative club record was broken with only 43 points on the scoreboard back in mid-November, the air was thick among the fans. The disbelief was hard to conceal. 

Now, they are thrilled with the alley-oops, and Fenerbahce is flourishing in offensive efficiency with over 100 PPP (points per possession) in Euroleague with four-game in succession. For Fenerbahce, this happens for the first time this season.

Once again, Nando De Colo was in the driving seat with 17 points, 7 assists, and -lest we forget- 6 steals.

Together with Vesely, they produced 40% of all Fenerbahce points with only 2 turnovers. That is the definition of efficiency and leadership. Djordjevic does not hide his pleasure. 

"I would like to congratulate Jan Vesely and Nando de Colo," Djordjevic said. "They played an exceptional game. That is something that makes me happier. As a coach, I would like to make them continue like this."

Beyond the individual contributions, there is a discernible improvement in terms of rhythm and ball movement in Fenerbahce offenses.

Fenerbahce recorded 22 assists against Baskonia, the third time in the last four Euroleague games that they played with 20+ assists. They are now joint second in assists per game (18) after Barcelona (19) with Real Madrid.

Tempo is higher, as well. After the first 8 games, Fenerbahce was lagging below 80 per possession, but they are 81.5 now, thanks to some outliner games in terms of tempo against Monaco (85), Efes (87), and Maccabi (84).

In addition to that, Fenerbahce shoots the ball within 10 seconds in 25% of all possessions, which is among the quickest figures in EuroLeague. 

The only concern of Djordjevic was the injuries that they currently have. Devin Booker's absence in the second half was precautionary but also concerning. 

"Devin Booker felt something in his muscles, and due to that, he did not play in the second half. We'll check him out," he explained. 

"Also, Dyshawn Pierre had a fever, but he played this game despite that. Ahmet Duverioglu got injured from his ankle and could not even walk this morning. We still lack Danilo Barthel. Our energy and recovery are going to be the key in the upcoming games," said Djordjevic.

Fenerbahce became a part of the playoff race again despite the early struggles. One time, Pierria Henry was booed for sending an airball in the infamous Milano game, and Djordjevic was protested after losing against Efes. Now, these are distant memories. Things change fast when you can fly.

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Nando De Colo

Nando De Colo
Nando De Colo
MIN: 23.45
PTS: 12.5 (56.63%)
REB: 2.31
As: 4.25
ST: 1.63
BL: 0.25
TO: 2.81
GM: 16