Game 5 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs! The winner goes to the Final Four! Score tied...the clock is ticking away...
It's the type of scenario players dream of when putting up shots as kids. To date, no EuroLeague Playoffs series has come down to the last shot, though we came close once. In 2012, Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Tal Burstein rebounded a missed free throw on the defensive end with 5 seconds to go and his team down by a point in Game 5 of their series against Panathinaikos Athens. However, before he could get across midcourt and put up the potential game-winner, Dimitris Diamantidis – the six-time EuroLeague Best Defender – poked the ball away and the Greens won 86-85.
Since the EuroLeague extended the length of the playoffs from best-of-three games to best-of-five for the 2008-09 season, only nine series have gone the distance until now. So far, home teams are 9-0 in Game 5s, and in six of those games, the winning margin was in double figures. No Game 5 has ever gone to overtime.
This season's only Game 5, the 10th one historically, features two teams who know all about these moments. Anadolu Efes Istanbul and FC Barcelona Lassa, who will meet in Turkey on Wednesday, have played in more than half of these previous do-or-die games, but this is their first against each other.
Barcelona's record in Game 5s is 2-1. Only Ante Tomic and Pau Ribas remain from its most-recent Game 5 appearance. Efes is 0-2, having lost to Olympiacos Piraeus in both 2013 and 2017. Only Dogus Balbay and Bryant Dunston remain from Efes's 2017 team, though current Barcelona guard Thomas Heurtel played in that game for Efes, too.
The first team to win a Game 5 under the current playoffs format was Barcelona in 2009. It blasted Tau Ceramica Baskonia 78-62 with Juan Carlos Navarro and Ersan Ilyasova netting 19 points apiece. Barcelona later became the first team to win two Game 5s when it knocked out Panathinaikos 64-53 in 2013. Navarro was again Barca's go-to guy with 15 points.
As one might expect, the pressure of the do-or-die Game 5 has produced more low-scoring nights than shoot-outs. The aforementioned Panathinaikos victory over Maccabi in 2012 marked the only time that a losing team reached 80 points in a fifth game. Otherwise, the losers have been held below 70 six times and below 60 three times, including CSKA Moscow's 77-44 rout of Panathinaikos in 2014. That 30-point difference is also the largest in Game 5 history.
The best individual performance in a Game 5 came from Diamantidis in that 2012 thriller, when he finished with 25 points and a performance index rating of 34 in 2012. Next best was Sasha Kaun's 18 points, 9 rebounds and PIR of 29 for CSKA in 2014. Current Barcelona big man Chris Singleton knows plenty about performing in Game 5, however. He went off for 16 points, 12 rebounds and a PIR of 27 to lead Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar to an 81-67 triumph worth a trip to the 2016 Final Four. His victim that night? Barcelona!
The rough news for both Efes and Barcelona is that six of the previous nine Game 5 winners lost in the semifinals at the Final Four and only one – Olympiacos in 2013 – went on to win the title. But they can only join Olympiacos in that exclusive club by getting to the Final Four first. And one of them will do that on Wednesday!