The way Coach Zeljko Obradovic mixes and matches his lineups, it's almost unfair to call some players starters or reserves. After all, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul's top three scorers on the season, Jan Vesely, Kostas Sloukas and Marko Guduric, all came off the bench on Thursday. Accordingly, the fact that Fenerbahce's bench outscored its starters (60-18), the Zalgiris Kaunas bench (30) or even the Zalgiris starters (31) is almost irrelevant.
That said, getting big contributions from unexpected sources is always a bonus and that's what the captain delivered. With the team naturally tired and dispirited from Tuesday's road loss at Khimki Moscow Region, Fenerbahce came out flat against Zalgiris and needed more than four minutes to get going. However, when Obradovic put Mahmutoglu on the floor, everything changed.
Mahmutoglu thrilled the Fenerbahce faithful with a running hook shot at the end of the shot clock in the second quarter, but really turned it on late to finish with 14 points on perfect shooting plus 2 assists and a season-high 2 steals. He scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, including 7 plus a steal and assist during a 9-3 run to restore a double-digit lead after Zalgiris narrowed the gap to 7. His 26:50 on the floor was second-most on the team behind only Vesely.
"Melih always works hard. I am with him for years, so I know how he thinks and he works," said Sloukas, who shred top-scoring honors in the game at 14 with Mahmutoglu. "He deserves this. He played really good also at Khimki. All the team and coach trusts him. He showed up."
For the season, Mahmutoglu is now averaging a career-high 6.6 points per game. His 50% three-point accuracy is also a personal best and his 18 three-pointers made through 13 games played likewise puts him on pace for a career best. With Mahmutoglu contributing some of the best numbers – and performances – of his career in addition to his veteran leadership and infectious fighting spirit, Fenerbahce is also at its best.