Some basketball fans might assume they wouldn't miss much by not watching a game between the last two teams in the regular season standings. Well, those fans would be following the wrong competition, because the pride that Turkish Airlines EuroLeague teams show on the court goes beyond who's hot and who's not.
Buducnost VOLI Podgorica and Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul, who entered their game on Friday with a combined 5-29 record, gave us a good lesson on what the EuroLeague is all about. Nobody wants to be last, and both teams fought as hard as ever for a win that would lift one of them out of the basement. The game went down to the wire and had one of the most exciting finishes in the competition this season.
After the game saw as 15 lead changes, Buducnost seemed to have full control of it once Edwin Jackson downed a jumper that made it an eight-point game, 66-58, with 6 minutes left. But Darussafaka was not going to leave Moraca Arena without a fight. Jeremy Evans and Kartal Ozmirzak provided the fireworks, the guests improved their defense, and a three-pointer by Toney Douglas tied the game, 72-72.
When Nemanja Gordic split free throws with 41.1 seconds left, Darussafaka had a chance to get ahead – and the visitors did not waste it. After using a couple of non-shooting fouls, Ozmizrak went to the line with 11.7 seconds to go, hitting both attempts for a 73-74 lead. Cole, who had committed that foul, knew he had responsibilities to fulfill and, after a timeout, proceeded to bury a game-winning jumper with 4 seconds remaining. After that, Darussafaka could not get a shot up in time, allowing Buducnost to celebrate another home win. Its last three home victories – against CSKA Moscow, FC Barcelona and Darussafaka – came by a combined margin of 5 points.
"For us, it was very important not to be the last-place team. Now we can put our heads up a bit more and try to see what is coming next," Jackson, visibly relieved, said after the game. "We always put a lot of heart and sometimes it goes in our favor, sometimes the game will slip away. But today we got lucky and I hope this win turns our luck a little bit."
Buducnost will try to work its magic at home again next Friday, in Round 19, against none other than the competition's reigning champion, Real Madrid.