Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul could not have made its entrance into the Final Four in a more impressive manner, setting a number of new collective and individual records by blasting aside Zalgiris Kaunas with an 82-99 win at Zalgirio Arena to take the series 3-1.
The Turkish team’s inspiration was Ali Muhammed, who opened the scoring in the game’s very first possession and didn’t look back from that moment. The veteran point guard finished the game with 25 points and a new personal high PIR of 32 – the first of many bests set by Fenerbahce on the night.
Muhammed’s scoring was at the heart of many of them. Firstly, he helped Fenerbahce establish a 17-point advantage in the first quarter – the biggest scoring difference enjoyed by a visiting team in the playoffs this century, eclipsing the 12-point leads claimed by Kinder Bologna and Olympiacos way back in 2001.
Although the scoring slowed in the second quarter, by half-time Fenerbahce still reached a total of 49 points, a new club high in the playoffs on the road, surpassing the 48 scored last season at KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz. And the team’s final total of 99 points was also a Fenerbahce best in the playoffs away from home, easily overtaking the 92 points achieved in that game at Baskonia.
One of the keys behind Fenerbahce’s success on offense was the accuracy of its long-range shooting, again led by Muhammed who made 5-of-5 triples in a team total of 15 conversions in 22 attempts – the highest number of three-pointers ever made by Fenerbahce in the playoffs. And that’s not all: the completion percentage of 68.2% was the highest achieved by any team in the playoffs this century, beating the 66.7% (14-of-21) achieved by Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv against Baskonia in 2011.
Another aspect of Fenerbahce’s offensive fluidity was its ability to move the ball, as the Turkish team finished the game with 24 assists – another club best in the playoffs. Kostas Sloukas led that particular statistic with 10 assists, and by also scoring 15 points he became only the sixth player to record three double-doubles in the playoffs, and the first ever to do so with a combination of passing and scoring (the other five are Ante Tomic, Ersan Ilyasova, Ioannis Bourousis, Andy Betts and Rashard Griffith). Sloukas also set a new career best with 4 steals.
All those great stats added up to give Fenerbahce its 28th win of the season, the most wins ever recorded by any team in single season. Of course, there are still two games remaining as the Turkish team heads to the Final Four, and the fifth consecutive trip to the showpiece occasion of European basketball has only been bettered by CSKA Moscow’s run of eight consecutive Final Fours between 2003 and 2010 (a feat the Russian team could match this season).
And there’s still room for one more: Fenerbahce’s team PIR of 122 sets – you guessed it – a new club record in the playoffs.
Quite a night for Fenerbahce!