Fenerbahce fights off Buducnost challenge
A masterful finish lifted league-leading Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul to a 76-67 home win over feisty visitor Buducnost VOLI Podgorica on Tuesday. The 12-1 closing run lasted more than 6 minutes down the stretch and assured that Fenerbahce remained perfect at home for the season. Buducnost, still winless on the road, had led often all night, including by 10 points in the first half. Fenerbahce took its league-leading record to 23-4 while Buducnost fell to 6-21. Nikola Kalinic had 14 points and 6 rebounds for the victors. Jan Vesely followed with 13 and 6 assists, while Ali Muhammed and Kostas Sloukas both scored 11. For the visitors, Earl Clarke lead the way with 20 points, Goga Bitadze added 11, while Filip Barovic and Peter Popovic scored 10 apiece. Fenerbahce seemed to be taking control while building a seven-point lead in the first quarter, but Buducnost used a 7-20 run to take a double-digit lead in the second before succumbing late to a gritty and determined comeback by Fenerbahce.
Clark got the scoring started, but it was the first and last time Buducnost would lead in that opening 10 minutes. Sinan Guler celebrated his first start this season with 4 points to put Fenerbahce ahead 8-3. Kalinic and Erick Green lifted the lead to 14-5 from deep. Nemanja Gordic and Clark responded for Buducnost at 15-12, before Green and Kalinic made it 19-12. Buducnost got within 19-16 to end the first quarter and then Petar Popovic forged a tie from deep to open the second. Bitadze's three-point play shot the guests in front 23-26 and soon Filip Barovic upped it to 25-30. Fenerbahce's shooters stayed cold and its turnovers soon matched Buducnost's (9-9). Edwin Jackson's first basket was followed by Barovic's three-point play to make it 26-36 with 3:25 left in the first half. Fenerbahce kept its cool, though, chipping away at that lead with a timely Ali Muhammed triple helping to cut the difference to 36-39 at halftime. Fenerbahce came out with all guns blazing and retook the lead thanks to scores from Nicolo Melli and Vesely. The scoreboard continued to flick back and forth with a reverse layup by Marko Guduric sending Fenerbahce ahead 50-48. Although it seemed that the hosts were starting to put a little daylight between themselves and the visitors, Clark's steal and slam at the buzzer would tie the score again, 58-58, at the end of the third quarter. James Bell kicked off the fourth and final quarter with a three to edge Buducnost ahead again before Clark spun and dunked to extend that lead to 60-64. But Fenerbahce weren't going anywhere as Sloukas landed a long jumper to level things up and Guduric pushed the hosts ahead again from mid-range. Muhammed drained another timely three with 3 minutes left, which ended Buducnost's resistance. Fenerbahce's defense had the final word by holding Buducnost to a single free throw over the game's final 6 minutes, 24 seconds to win going away after having struggled until then.
Nikola Kalinic was Fenerbahce's main man, with an almost perfect all-around display. He shot 3 for 3 from two-point distance, 2 for 3 from the arc and 2 for 2 on free throws to get his team-high 14 points in the near minimum of shots. On top of that, he added 6 rebounds and had 3 steals in a complete performance that tipped the scales in his side's favor.
Mover and shaker
Earl Clark became a one-man highlight reel for Buducnost with 20 points. He came up big every time his side needed him, which included a nice steal and finish at the end of the third and another nice move in the paint to put Buducnost up by four early in the fourth.
Did you notice?
In the absence of Norris Cole, his backcourt mate, Nemanja Gordic played all 40 minutes and dished out 10 assists, his career high in his fifth EuroLeague season. His particularly sharp passes to Filip Barovic in the first quarter gave Buducnost needed inspiration, which paid off with an unexpected 10-point lead in the second quarter.
Both teams are back on the floor within 48 hours for Round 28. Fenerbahce visits CSKA Moscow in a top-of-the-table clash while Buducnost welcomes Anadolu Efes Istanbul to Podgorica.
Tuesday, March 19, 2019