Fenerbahce fights off Baskonia, goes up 1-0
Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul, the reigning Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion, made a first step towards a return to the Final Four by holding off visiting KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz 82-73 in Game 1 of their playoffs series on Wednesday. Fenerbahce used a strong first half, relying on its suffocating defense to build a 20-point lead, then fended of Baskonia's attempt to rally in the second half. Brad Wanamaker finished as Fenerbahce's top scorer with 16 points, while Kostas Sloukas had 10 points and dished a career-high 11 assists. Jan Vesely had 13 points and 7 rebounds, while James Nunnally also scored 13 in victory. Tornike Shengelia was the visitors’ top scorer with 16 points. Rodrigue Beaubois scored 13 points, Luca Vildoza 12, and Matt Janning 11 in the losing effort. It was the 10th playoffs win in a row for Fenerbahce.
Fenerbahce quickly took control as Vesely had a monster dunk and Nunnally drained a triple. After Beaubois got a steal and a dunk for Baskonia, Fenerbahce pulled away by 12-4 with Wanamaker adding a triple to a jumper before Jason Thompson fired in a long two-pointer. After a timeout, Baskonia's Shengelia hit from close and Janis Timma from long range to cut the difference to 13-9, but Fenerbahce replied with a long jumper from Nunnally, and close-range baskets from Thompson, Vesely and Luigi Datome to open up a 21-11 after 10 minutes. A dunk and a hook shot from Ahmet Duverioglu extended the lead to 25-11 early in the second quarter. Shengelia had a three-point play for the visitors, before Kostas Sloukas and Janning traded triples. Baskonia cut the deficit to single digits, but only briefly, as back-to-back threes from Nicolo Melli and Datome against the visitors' full-court pressure meant a 34-19 margin for Fenerbahce midway through the second quarter. Janning and Beaubois drove for layups, forcing a Fenerbahce timeout, but what followed was a 9-0 run, sparked by back-to-back Sloukas-to-Vesely alley-oops, and capped by a Marko Guduric triple at 43-23. Baskonia was held without a single point for almost 5 minutes before Luca Vildoza closed the second quarter with a layup-plus-free throw, making it 43-26 at halftime.
Baskonia got into a better offensive rhythm in the third quarter, with Vildoza scoring a pair of close-range baskets, and Vincent Poirier netting a baseline jumper, but Nunnally had a long jumper and a four-point-play that extended the lead to 51-32. Ilimane Diop and Vildoza scored for Baskonia before Janning knocked down back-to-back triples. Sloukas drove for a pair layups, including a basket-plus-foul, before Marcelinho Huertas hit from downtown to lower the difference to 60-50. Datome had a three-pointer at the other end and Marko Guduric hit an off-balance runner to give Fenerbahce 65-52 at the end of the third, but Huertas and Beaubois quickly cut the deficit to single digits early in the fourth, making it 65-58. Fenerbahce stepped up defensively then to stop the visitors' momentum while Vesely and Wanamaker went perfect 6 of 6 from the free throw line to restore a double-digit margin. But Beaubois had a three-point play and Shengelia drove coast-to-coast to make it 71-63 halfway through the fourth quarter, keeping Baskonia's hopes alive. Wanamaker knocked down a three-pointer for the hosts, but Vildoza answered right back in the same manner. Shengelia added a three-point play to make it 77-69 with 1:40 to go, but Wanamaker sealed the deal on the ensuing possession with a corner triple as the champs protected their home court again.
Wednesday, April 18, 2018