There was high anticipation at Mediolanum Forum on Wednesday when AX Armani Exchange Milan and Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul entered the court for their Round 27 game in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season. Days earlier, Fenerbahce had seen its 10-game winning streak abruptly come to an end with a 32-point home loss against cross-town rivals Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Milan, meanwhile, was on a solid four-game winning streak.
The stage was set for a one-of-a-kind game – and that is exactly what happened: Milan and Fenerbahce battled for 40 minutes with shooting accuracy that was almost unprecedented in competition history. When the dust settled, Fenerbahce had won an elite offensive battle by downing Milan 92-100.
This game marked just the second time in EuroLeague history that both teams made more than 50% of both their two-point and three-point shots and also more than 90% of their free throws. Milan's extremely solid percentages (59.5% 2FG, 52% 3FG, 100% FT) in a losing effort were only slightly ahead of Fenerbahce's similarly excellent shooting (58.1% 2FG, 52.2%, 93.3% FT).
Two teams shooting at rates of 50%, 50% and 90% or higher only happened in one other previous game, between Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (60.5% 2FG, 54.5% 3FG, 95.5% FT) and Valencia Basket (51.5% 2FG, 54.5% 3FG, 90% FT) at Aleksandar Nikolic Hall on March 15, 2018. Zvezda downed Valencia 106-90.
"It is one of those nights when you just congratulate your opponent," Milan head coach Ettore Messina said after the game. "Overall, our offensive numbers were very good and their offensive numbers are even much better."
What both teams shooting great percentages in this game, what made the difference in Fenerbahce's favor? Hustle was the key factor. Fenerbahce outrebounded Milan 20-35, including 12 offensive boards. It also collected 7 steals and committed just 10 turnovers. All of that added up to more possessions, which outweighed Fenerbahce's slightly lower two-point and free-throw accuracy.
With the game on the line, Fenerbahce's star duo stepped up to decide it, too. Milan had rallied from a double-digit deficit to get within 81-82 with 5:37 to play. Nando De Colo took matters into his own hands then, hitting a three-pointer and finding Jan Vesely for a three-point play. Fenerbahce never looked back after that.
Vesely finished the game with a career-high 8 assists, just 2 short of making for a historic triple-double with his 13 points and 10 rebounds. His PIR of 35 was one point shy of his personal best of 36 in an 89-83 road loss to Efes on October 25, 2018. His passing was key to Fenerbahce's offensive fluidity and efficiency.
"Our mentality was trying to forget about the game at home with Efes and play like we played in the 10 games that we won in a row," Vesely said after the game. "So we did that. We fought and stayed together."
Fenerbahce will play four of its next five games on the road – against LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, Valencia Basket, Olympiacos Piraeus and FC Bayern Munich – looking for a final push to reach the EuroLeague Playoffs and complete a comeback from having started this 2020-21 campaign with a 5-10 record.