It was modern basketball at its best that saw Anadolu Efes Istanbul defeat FC Barcelona Lassa 80-71 on Wednesday to claim the last remaining ticket to the 2019 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four. Efes put the ball in the hands of its point guards, Shane Larkin and Vasilije Micic, who ran the pick-and-roll and looked for either easy shots in the paint or open looks from the perimeter. Barcelona allowed more of the latter and Efes kept shooting threes at a record pace.
Efes set EuroLeague Playoffs record for three-pointers attempted (39) and made (17) in a game. It also tied a club record for threes made and set a new Efes mark for attempted threes. In fact, the percentage of overall shots Efes took that were three-pointers was the highest of any game in EuroLeague history: 72.2%. On a night where Barcelona dominated the glass (24-38) and shot well (50.0% 2FG, 40.0% 3FG), the number of quality three-point shots Efes took and made was the difference.
"Barcelona is the best defensive team this year in EuroLeague and they have a lot of size with Tomic, Singleton, Claver," Coach Ergin Ataman of Efes explained after the game. "It is not easy to go under the basket and this is not our strategy to play a low-post game, especially with our 5s, Dunston and Pleiss who are more pick-and-roll players than low-post players. Our strategy was similar for this whole season and against Barcelona. They close the paint too much and we attacked with penetrations and very good spacing and we found open shots."
The Efes shot chart as seen above was a thing of beauty and just what Coach Ataman hoped for. All but 3 shots were either three-pointers or in the paint. Five Efes players came together to combine for the 17 threes. Larkin sank 5, Adrien Moerman 4, Rodrigue Beaubois and James Anderson made 3 each and Micic 2. Beaubois was most accurate; he did not miss a single three-point try!
With their season on the line, Efes's shooters did not hesitate to fire up shots when they were open. The reward for their courage, accuracy and talent was great and may yet be forthcoming. On Wednesday, the reward was victory and a ticket to the Final Four. Going forward, opponents have been warned what happens if you allow Efes too many good looks from downtown. In the future, overplaying the shooters may open things up for the big men. It's all part of the big-picture plan in this special season for Anadolu Efes Istanbul.