In a clash of two teams tied for the best record heading into this round, Anadolu Efes Istanbul went on the road and edged AX Armani Exchange Milan. It was a game that had a little bit of everything. Milan was undefeated on its home floor before this game, while Efes arrived depleted just 48 hours after winning at LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne.
Milan tied its club record with 8 blocked shots in this game and the hosts were feeding off the energy from their fans, which made the game all the more exciting. But Efes had its veteran big man Tibor Pleiss, who was huge with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and had one cool Shane Larkin, who scored 9 of his game-high 17 points in the final 4 minutes of the game.
Of his points down the stretch, 7 came from the free-throw line, including 4 in the final 28 seconds to seal the win. It might not be that big of a deal if not for the bigger picture.
Efes made 23 of 24 free throws on the night. The team made its first 18 before Krunoslav Simon split his fouls shots with 1:29 remaining in the game. But there is more. Just two days earlier Efes was even better, making 25 of 26 in a road win over ASVEL. That is 48 of 50 from the foul line in just 48 hours, which helped the team win by 6 and 5 points, respectively, and ride its four-game winning streak to a league-best 8-2 record.
This is not just a thing for this week. Efes currently is making 85.64% of its free throws through 10 rounds, on pace to shatter the all-time single-season record of 82.79% set by Valencia Basket two seasons ago. Interestingly, Zalgiris is also on pace to beat that mark, making 84.02% this season.
On this Round 10 night, three of the four games were won by 5 points or fewer. In Round 9, there were five games decided by 6 points or fewer. Shooting free throws with unprecedented accuracy is not just a difference-maker for one game, but could turn into one for the entire season.