When Real Madrid traveled to face Anadolu Efes Istanbul on Tuesday night, there was an expectation for a high-scoring shootout. After all, Efes based its march to last season’s Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game on a fast-moving and free-flowing offense, especially at home, while Real has been famed for its spectacular point-scoring capabilities throughout the reign of head coach Pablo Laso. As it happened, though, a very different kind of game would ensue and, by the end, Real would be making history… for all the wrong reasons.
It didn’t seem that way at first. Real started by firing in 3 three-pointers in as many minutes, forcing Efes Coach Ergin Ataman into calling an early timeout. Those opening three scores for the visitors, however, did provide a clue about the action to follow… because they all came from beyond the arc.
In the face of Efes’s trap defense and the athletic ability of Bryant Dunston, Real just could not get anywhere near the basket. The Spanish team did not even attempt a two-point shot until four minutes had been played when Anthony Randolph missed. Then Facundo Campazzo tried to penetrate but found his route blocked by Vasilije Micic and had to settle for foul shots. Then Randolph missed again, so did Jeffrey Taylor, Campazzo had a layup blocked by Dunston, Carroll was unable to convert and Taylor missed both his shot and two tip-in attempts. And that was the end of the first quarter: 8 two-point attempts, 0 converted.
This was a problem that Real was unable to fix. The visitors' first two-pointer finally arrived with 5:31 remaining in the first half, when Sergio Llull penetrated to score at the tenth time of asking. But that was not the prelude for any particular improvement – although Gabriel Deck did manage to finish the first half on a high, going coast to coast in the dying seconds to beat the buzzer from close range.
Efes’s defensive excellence inside the paint continued through the full 40 minutes, with Ataman’s men even maintaining their intensity in the dying seconds when the game was already won: with 90 seconds remaining, Campazzo thought he finally had an easy score with an open court layup, but Rodrigue Beaubois hustled back to make a stunning chase-down block.
In the end, Real had attempted 30 two-point shots and only made 7 of them – just 23.3%. It was the lowest number of two-pointers in the club’s EuroLeague history, 'beating' the previous low of 10 twos recorded in last season’s defeat at Buducnost VOLI Podgorica.
Worse than that, it was also the joint-second lowest number of two-pointers made by any team in the competition’s modern history. The only worse effort came from Khimki Moscow Region in a 68-72 victory (!) at Milan in November 2009, when the Russian team only converted 6 of 25 two-pointers. Four teams managed just 7 two-pointers and on Thursday night Efes’s outstanding defense forced Real to join that unhappy list.