Anadolu Efes Istanbul developed great team chemistry, which allowed it to reach the Top 16 early and contend with Real Madrid for first place in their regular season group. After losing veteran center Nenad Krstic to injury - he was the competition’s leader in performance index rating at the time, youngster Dario Saric and experienced big man Milko Bjelica stepped up and carried the load. So much so that together with the veterans Stephane Lasme and Stratos Perperoglou, they turned Efes into one of the best teams at protecting the rim, helping the club rank among the Euroleague leaders in rebounds and blocks, and becoming the only team this season to hold opponents to fewer than 70 points per game (69.6 ppg.) on average.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: It has been almost 15 years since Efes made the one and only appearance by a Turkish club at the Final Four. With three teams from the great city of Istanbul aiming for Euroleague glory, this marks the second consecutive season that long-time rivals Efes and Fenerbahce Ulker will meet in the Top 16. It will not only be a battle of the two teams that have combined to win 10 of the last 13 Turkish championships, but a clash of the Euroleague’s all-time great coaching masterminds – Efes’ Dusan Ivkovic and Fenerbahce’s Zeljko Obradovic. To make the stakes even higher, the mouthwatering derbies are set for Round 7 and for the final week of Top 16 action, Round 14.
GOING FORWARD: Despite having many seasoned veterans on one hand, and a lot of young players on the other, expect Coach Ivkovic to continue masterfully leading his team. No less than eight players regularly share the scoring load. But with the steady presence of point guard Dontaye Draper running the show, and veterans like Lasme, Perperoglou, Bjelica and Matt Janning leading by example, it has been youngsters Saric and Cedi Osman who have become the facilitators on both ends of the floor. With the two talents’ games and confidence growing, league’s best defense, and Krstic returning from injury, the good times could keep on rolling beyond the Top 16.