It was billed as an offensive showdown between teams with momentum in the race for the top spots in the standings - not to mention a rematch of the 2019 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game. But only one team showed up as Anadolu Efes Istanbul downright dominated CSKA Moscow in historic fashion on Thursday in the Turkish metropolis.
Vasilije Micic paced six scorers in double figures with 21 points as Efes rolled past CSKA 100-70 for its sixth straight win and ninth in the last 10 games. The result was clear really after just 10 minutes as Efes led 31-13 and the gap was 55-28 at half time. Both the 18-point and 27-point deficits were CSKA’s biggest-ever in the EuroLeague after 10 minutes and after two quarters, respectively. Efes did not let up on the gas pedal and reached 100 points for the fourth time this season.
"It was perfect character, perfect basketball: aggressiveness and offense. Everything was perfect. It was a great night - maybe one of the best nights for my club in the EuroLeague - to take this victory against a team that is also playing to win the title,” said Efes coach Ergin Ataman.
"In the first half, we showed maybe the best half I have seen in my career. We really showed the example of how to play as a team," added Efes veteran Krunoslav Simon.
CSKA came into the game with the best offense in the league at 83.6 points with Efes just behind at 81.5 ppg. But it was only the hosts who lived up to the expectations of offensive fireworks.
One of the main reasons was Efes doing a great job of slowing down CSKA’s engine Mike James, who entered the game as the league’s top scorer. But he was held to just 5 points on 1-of-9 field-goal shooting. He had scored in double figures in his last 18 games and 48 of the last 49.
With the game already decided, Efes gave itself the challenge to make up for its bitter 100-65 loss at CSKA in Round 14 on December 15. Ataman said he held a two or three-hour-long meeting with his team after the game in Russia to talk about the lessons learned from that drubbing.
Efes built up a 33-point lead late in this game, but could not match the 35-point margin. Still the 65-point swing between the two games is tied for the third-biggest in EL history.
"We knew what happened in Moscow. We learned a lot from that game. In my opinion, they are one of the best teams in the EuroLeague with such a talented team. But at the same time, today we showed our great potential - defensively and offensively," said Micic.
Ataman added that his team has reached a new level: "We have not just found the same level as last year. We are better than last year."
One thing is certain, a potential matchup between these two teams later this season just got that much more interesting.