In Tuesday's night game between Anadolu Efes and Olimpia Milan, the two clubs will have the last shot at keeping their playoff hopes alive in the last few rounds. Whoever loses the game will be pretty much out of playoff contention.

Credit: Emanuele Cremaschi / Contributor-Getty Images
Credit Emanuele Cremaschi / Contributor-Getty Images

Two seasons ago, Anadolu Efes Istanbul and EA7 Emporio Armani Milan were both in Cologne for the EuroLeague Final Four, with the Turkish side ending up winning the competition in the final against Barcelona.

Last season, the two teams faced each other in a playoff series with, once again, the Turkish side prevailing and going all the way to the second EuroLeague title in a row.

On Tuesday night, Efes and Milan will face each other for a crucial game, but the end game will be very different this time.

Both teams are currently out of the playoff zone and risk not qualifying for the most critical part of the European season.

It's something that would have been almost impossible to predict at the beginning of the season. Efes were back-to-back champions and added important pieces like Will Clyburn and Ante Zizic to an already very loaded roster.

On the other hand, Milan went through an expensive summer campaign with marquee signings like Kevin Pangos, Johannes Voigtmann, and Brandon Davies. Most of the experts were convinced that both teams were Final Four material.

After winning the second title in a row, Anadolu Efes head coach Ergin Ataman even said that his team and Milan would have faced in the final the following year. Of course, things are going in a slightly different way.

With four games remaining in the regular season, Efes and Milan have both a negative record of 14 wins and 16 losses. Even winning all the remaining games might not be enough for them.

But, most importantly, whoever loses Tuesday's match will probably be out of the playoff contention once and for all.

The two teams arrive at the game in two very different ways. Despite the poor performances of the first half of the season, Olimpia Milan has been in great form recently.

Since the arrival of American/Puerto Rican point guard Shabazz Napier, they have won 8 of their last 9 EuroLeague games, losing only against Real Madrid in a very close game.

Efes, on the other hand, experience an extremely negative stretch. Ataman's team has lost its last two games in a row in the EuroLeague against Partizan Belgrade and ALBA Berlin and overall has won only four of its last 10 EuroLeague challenges.

Immediately after the last-second loss to Alba Berlin, Ataman admitted that his team's playoff hopes were basically over with that game.

"This is the summary of our season. We will not play in the playoffs; good luck to all the other teams."

A strong statement underscoring the difficulties experienced by the Turkish club this season.

Tuesday's contest, therefore, represents, in all likelihood, the last resort for both teams that have had at least bumpy paths but opposite problems. Indeed, Olimpia Milan have suffered many injury problems since the first weeks of the season.

Shavon Shields, one of the team's stars, has played, so far, only 6 games in EuroLeague due to a foot injury that kept him out for almost 4 months. In those 6 games with Shields available, Milan has a record of 5 wins and only one loss.

Kevin Pangos and Gigi Datome have also missed a good chunk of the season due to physical problems. Currently, Milan has to play without another extremely important player like Devon Hall.

Even in the most difficult moment of the season, when Milan came to collect 9 losses in a row, the Italian team has always maintained its defensive dimension. To date, Ettore Messina's team has the third-best defensive rating in the competition.

Instead, the fundamental problem has been the offense's lack of solutions. Although the situation has definitely improved since Napier's arrival, Olimpia continues to be one of the worst offenses in the EuroLeague (the Italians are second to last in offensive rating with a value of 108.2 points per 100 possessions, with only ASVEL having a worse figure).

Defending champions Efes have also had to deal with injury problems, starting with Shane Larkin, who has been available in less than half of the EuroLeague games.

Vasilije Micic has also often been not at his best due to a knee problem. The Turkish club is no stranger to a not-necessarily flawless performance during the regular season. Still, Ataman's team had also shown the ability to always be ready in the moments that mattered most.

However, this year, Efes often seemed like an apathetic team unable to fully grasp the urgency of the moment. Especially in defense, Efes struggled tremendously throughout the season.

Currently, the Turks have the third worst defensive rating in the entire competition, but if we focus specifically on the second half of the season, the figure is even worse, with Efes holding the worst defensive rating in the EuroLeague.

Despite the great offensive talent of this group of players, it is hard to think that Ataman's team can get far by continuing to play with this bad defensive attitude. Some additions made during the offseason failed to make the desired impact.

Achille Polonara left the team after a few months, while Ante Zizic, plucked from Maccabi Tel Aviv, only rarely showed the level of performance he had accustomed us to during his time in Israel.

The atmosphere inside the Efes locker room also does not seem to be so calm. After the loss to Partizan Belgrade, Shane Larkin used his Twitter profile to criticize Ataman's choice to play him "only" 22 minutes.

"Most important game of the year, and I play 22 minutes", Larkin wrote on Twitter. "I'm all about the team, I just want to win, but this blows my mind."

Despite a rivalry on the court, Ergin Ataman and Ettore Messina are good friends and have always had great respect for each other.

However, in Tuesday's contest, one of them will definitely eliminate the other from the playoff fight. For both teams, the challenge will be the last call to save a so far disappointing European season.

But what is most impressive is that regardless of the final result, neither will have total control over their own destiny because, in addition to trying to win at all costs, they will also have to hope for negative results from the teams ahead of them, especially Zalgiris Kaunas and Baskonia.

Only last summer, if anyone had assumed such a scenario, he would have been labeled a fool, but today Anadolu Efes and Emporio Armani Milano are facing a new reality.

They will not be playing the deciding game of a playoff series, nor will they be playing in the EuroLeague final; instead, they will be fighting to continue to have hope for a playoff spot.

For the winning team, nothing specific will be up for grabs but only the knowledge that they can hold on to their hopes for a while longer, unlike the defeated opponent.

There is an old Latin saying that goes "sic transit gloria mundi" that has become commonly used to indicate failures that come after great triumphs.

It is a phrase that at least one between Anadolu Efes and Olimpia Milano will have to deal with after Tuesday's game.

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