After missing the playoffs a year ago, Anadolu Efes Istanbul retooled over the summer and came into the current season with great expectations. Coach Velimir Perasovic, who led Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz to the Final Four a year ago, arrived for a second stint at the club and five new players were introduced to the roster.
The need for the squad to mesh and a tough schedule led to Efes starting the season on the wrong foot by losing its first three games.
A first victory over Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul led to a second over Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens, but nine rounds into the new season, Efes had yet to record a win outside of Istanbul.
A victory over Maccabi FOX in Tel Aviv highlighted a three-game winning streak, which included beating FC Barcelona Lassa in Round 11 to give Efes a winning record for the first time all season.
Efes’s up-and-down pattern continued through the middle part of the campaign and at the two-thirds mark in the regular season, Efes had a losing record and was on the outside of the playoff zone looking in.
A 72-86 victory over Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in the Serbian capital, where Derrick Brown and Thomas Heurtel each recorded double-doubles, proved to be a turning point in the season.
Efes reeled off four straight wins, culminating with a triumph at Unics Kazan, to leapfrog two teams and land in seventh place. Heurtel shined in that stretch and was later named EuroLeague MVP for the month of February.
Poor shooting plagued the team when it lost at home to Brose Bamberg, but Efes shook that off with another-four game winning streak – including victories over Fenerbahce Istanbul and Olympiacos Piraeus – before losing in Round 30 at first-place Real Madrid in a game that was for protocol only.
Efes finished the season with a 17-13 record and in sixth place, but more importantly is among the hottest teams in the league. No team had a better record than Efes’s 8-2 in the final stretch and coming into the playoffs, it looks like this team is peaking at just the right time!