Adam Hanga might have led FC Barcelona Lassa’s scoring with 17 points in Friday night’s Game 2 72-74 victory over Anadolu Efes Istanbul – including the winning basket with just 28 seconds remaining – but the Hungarian swingman was far more interested with what happened at the other end of the court.
“It’s all about defense,” said Hanga at half-time, which arrived with his team holding a 34-38 advantage. And it was indeed defense, highlighted by another contribution from Hanga with a huge chasedown block on Krunoslav Simon, which delivered the series-tying victory for the Spanish side at the Sinan Erdem Dome.
Scoring 74 points is by no means a bad offensive effort – especially on the road in the playoffs – but it would not normally be enough to overcome a dangerous team like Efes. The Turkish side has been an offensive powerhouse this season, especially in front of its fans by scoring 90 points or more in 7 of its 15 regular season outings on home floor.
To tie the series and claim homecourt advantage head of next week’s meetings in Barcelona, the visiting team had to focus its efforts on slowing down Efes’s usual offensive fluency, and the Spanish side certainly succeeded in that aim as Ergin Ataman’s men were limited to just 72 points – its lowest total of the season at home.
Crucially, Barcelona’s defense saved the best for last by almost completely shutting Efes down in the final quarter. The home side could only score 5 free throws in the first 5:38 of the fourth, before Vasilije Micic (twice) and Adrien Moerman finally registered field goals to send Efes in front, 72-71. But then the home team was subjected to smothering defense for the rest of the game and didn’t score a single point in the final 3 minutes, with the relentless pressure exerted by Barcelona’s hard-nosed defense eventually breaking Efes’s spirit to the extent that it couldn’t even get the ball into play with its final possession of the game.
Home team coach Ataman later ruefully admitted: “We didn’t find our regular tempo because they used Tomic and Singleton very well inside, and we didn’t have success in finding our fast break transition running game offense. Only in the third quarter were we successful in controlling the game.”
Restricting Efes to 72 points in the game, and only 13 points in the final quarter, was the key to Barcelona’s victory, and we can expect to see the same formula repeated when the teams meet again in Spain next week.