Fenerbahce Istanbul comes to its third consecutive Final Four intent on accomplishing the only thing it has yet to achieve: lift the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague trophy! Fenerbahce already made history this season with its sweep of Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens in the playoffs, becoming the first team without home-court advantage to win a best-of-five EuroLeague series in the minimum three games. Now, Fenerbahce takes aim at a singular target – winning the first EuroLeague crown for a Turkish club. And what better place to do so than Istanbul!
After falling in overtime in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game in Berlin last season, Fenerbahce retained the core of that team by bringing 10 players back for Coach Zeljko Obradovic. Their familiarity with one another and strong chemistry helped Fenerbahce stick together through the highs of three four-game winning streaks, the lows of a pair of three-game losing streaks, and a slew of injuries.
As in years past, Fenerbahce hangs its hat on fantastic defense, while also unleashing an attack that can be breathtaking in its execution and variety, with five players who averaged double figures in scoring during the regular season. Opponents were held below 70 points in more than one quarter of Fenerbahce's games and the team ranked third in the league with an average of 73.9 points allowed.
The road to the Final four was long and winding for Fenerbahce, which was tied for second place at 8-3 following its second run of four straight victories. Some midseason inconsistencies saw Fenerbahce drop back to sixth place. It rebounded with five wins in six games – including its second over defending champ CSKA Moscow – and soared back into fourth place at 17-9, looking intent on locking up home-court advantage for the playoffs. That dream ended with three straight defeats as Fenerbahce finished the regular season in fifth place with an 18-12 record.
When the playoffs began, however, Fenerbahce found its ideal form at both ends of the floor to sweep Panathinaikos, with Bogdan Bogdanovic claiming MVP honors after both Games 1 and 2. Center Ekpe Udoh also starred as the team extended its unbeaten run in the playoffs to nine games over three seasons, a EuroLeague record. In so doing, Fenerbahce showed the boundless ability that makes this team a serious title contender, especially with the Final Four being played in its own city.
Road to Istanbul
1. A pair of one-point victories to open the season propels Fenerbahce to a 4-0 record that only its nemesis from last year's championship game, CSKA Moscow, can match.
2. Without injured guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, Fenerbahce suffers a 34-point defeat at Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz, the team's worst in three seasons under Zeljko Obradovic.
3. Despite additional sporadic injuries, a pair of four-win streaks allow Fenerbahce to make it through the thick of the season with a 14-7 record.
4. Still in fourth place as of late March, Fenerbahce loses Kostas Sloukas to injury and drops four of five games, relinquishing home-court advantage in the playoffs.
5. Two wins against Panathinaikos Superfoods in Athens to start the playoffs – a first for a road team – send a finally healthy Fenerbahce forward to the Final Four at home in Istanbul!