Road to the Playoffs: Anadolu Efes Istanbul

Apr 09, 2019 by Print

After finishing dead last in the standings a season ago, Anadolu Efes Istanbul has rallied during this one to return to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs for the fourth time in seven years – but now with a twist. For the first time this century, Efes has home-court advantage in the playoffs, and that is thanks to a 20-win regular season that is already a new single-season club record.

Efes had a strong start to the season, beating FC Bayern Munich by 19 on the road. Despite a 14-point home loss to Zalgiris in Round 2, its last-second 84-85 road win at Khimki Moscow Region followed by a comeback home victory against city rival Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul put Efes on the right track.

The team was not shaken by a last-second loss at AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan, either, but rather responded by stringing together five wins, including double-digit home triumphs over Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, to improve its record to 8-2. Not only was Efes tied in the third place in the standings at that point, but after just 10 rounds, the team already surpassed its win total from the previous season.

A dramatic home loss to Real Madrid snapped a five-game winning streak, and consequently started the team's only slide of this campaign, as Efes finished on the losing side in four of five games, including road defeats to the hands of Olympiacos Piraeus, CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona Lassa. Amid those losses, however, Efes had a club-record performance index rating (PIR) of 155 in what was its largest home win this century, 106-68 over visiting Buducnost VOLI Podgorica.

Efes was tied for fourth place with a 9-6 record halfway through the regular season, before a 15-point home win against Bayern and some road revenge against Zalgiris sparked a four-game winning streak.

An up-and-down late January and February left Efes with a 15-9 record heading into a crucial showdown for fourth place with Barcelona, which held the same record. In that game, however, Shane Larkin scored a EuroLeague season-high 37 points and set a club record with a PIR of 43 as Efes won 92-70 to gain the inside track on home-court advantage in the playoffs.

What followed was a strong regular season finish, with Efes punching its playoffs ticket in Round 27 despite a home loss against CSKA Moscow, and then securing home-court advantage in Round 28 with a road win over Buducnost VOLI Podgorica.

Entering the playoffs on a three-game victory streak, and having won five of its last six total, Efes is poised to face Barcelona in an attempt to win its first EuroLeague playoff series this century and return to the EuroLeague Final Four after almost two decades.