After losing the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague title last season by the margin of a single rebound, Fenerbahce Istanbul brought back largely the same lineup last fall for a new assault at the title. However, a string of injury woes has helped ensure that the runners-up from last spring will need to reach their third consecutive Final Four the hard way this time, without home-court advantage in the playoffs.
A pair of one-point victories to open the season propelled Fenerbahce to a 4-0 record that only its nemesis from last year's championship game, CSKA Moscow, could match back in October.
One game after Bogdan Bogdanovic was injured, however, Fenerbahce suffered a three-game losing streak that included a 34-point defeat at Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz that is the team's worst loss in three seasons under head coach Zeljko Obradovic.
Despite additional sporadic injuries to Ekpe Udoh and others, another pair of four-win streaks allowed Fenerbahce to make it through the thick of the season with a 14-7 record and a seemingly strong hold on fourth place.
In between those streaks came one season highlight, an overtime win in Moscow, and to end the second one, Fenerbahce swept CSKA with a home win before its delirious fans in Istanbul.
The team was still two wins ahead in fourth place as late as March 20, by which time Kostas Sloukas had gone down for six games. Fenerbahce lost four of those, and despite qualifying for the playoffs anyway, relinquished control of fourth place, the last one that comes with home-court advantage in the next phase.
And even though the whole roster was healthy for just the sixth time this season in Round 30, Fenerbahce still needed overtime to beat long-eliminated FC Barcelona Lassa at home.
The end result was an 18-12 record and fifth place, sending Obradovic up against his old team, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens, in the best-of-five playoffs. The Greens will put Fenerbahce to the test to find out if this season, which ends at the Final Four in Istanbul, will be the one that last spring's runners-up had in mind ever since then.