This has, of course, been a magnificent season for Anadolu Efes Istanbul. The Turkish champion maintained its outstanding form on Thursday night by grabbing an 86-99 road win at ALBA Berlin, staying three games clear in first place and in the process setting a new record in the competition this century by claiming its 12th straight road victory.
On a personal level, Shane Larkin – missing in Berlin this week – has produced one of the best seasons ever witnessed in European basketball, but he has received plenty of help from the likes of Vasilije Micic, who set a personal best PIR of 35 on Thursday night. Veteran Kruno Simon is also delivering one of his best-ever seasons, and the same can be said for Tibor Pleiss – especially as he has been forced to deputize for another player with outstanding numbers, Bryant Dunston.
Until now, though, one man has been missing out on all the fun: Adrien Moerman. The French power forward was undoubtedly a key player for Efes last season, appearing in all 37 games en route to the championship game and making an excellent all-round contribution as he averaged 12 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists. His importance to Coach Ergin Ataman was particularly evident during the playoff series against Barcelona when he spent the entire 40 minutes of Game 2 on the floor. Clearly, Moerman was a fundamental piece in the Efes jigsaw.
But during the summer he underwent surgery on an Achilles injury, forcing him to miss the FIBA World Cup and the opening 15 games of the new EuroLeague season. And after he returned to action, Moerman’s road back to his best form has been slow and very difficult.
In his nine appearances before Thursday’s trip to Berlin, the 31-year-old had failed to score more than 6 points in a game, averaging only 3.3 points and also failing to show his usual effectiveness under the boards as he averaged just 2.1 rebounds. To highlight how much he was struggling, in three of those nine games Moerman recorded a negative PIR and his average was only 3.2.
On Thursday, though, the former Barcelona and Darussafaka star made his mark and got his season truly up and running. His 19 points, 7 rebounds, PIR of 27 and 25 minutes on the floor were all his best of the season and the fact that he made 9 of his 11 field goal attempts (8 of 10 two-pointers and his only three-point try) showed that he was very much in rhythm. Moerman’s contribution in Berlin also came at an important time, as he scored 11 of his points in the third quarter to break the game open, establishing a double-digit lead which would never be seriously threatened.
If this proves to be a turning point in Moerman’s recovery from his injury and he can now maintain the same kind of form heading into the playoffs, getting back one of their most important players will make an already-formidable Efes team even more difficult to beat.