At the end of the first quarter on Friday night, it looked almost certain that FC Bayern Munich would keep its playoffs dreams alive by surging to a routine road win at Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul. The German champ was leading 14-27 after combining flowing offense with fierce defense, and Darussafaka looked every inch like a team with nothing to play for.
Nothing to play for? Well, it turns out that was far from the truth, because the Turkish team roared back into contention early in the second quarter as Jeremy Evans, Jon Diebler and Kartal Ozmizrak all scored from long-range in a scorching 12-0 run in the space of 2:12. A few minutes later another three-point barrage followed from the hands of Dogus Ozdemiroglu, who scored all the points in a 9-0 run in 94 seconds.
Those two runs brought Darussafaka right back into contention, and the second half was closely contested as the home team found another inspiration in the form of Toney Douglas – the free-scoring guard had been held to just 3 points in the first half but scored 23 after the break including another flurry of triples, including a crucial strike to make it a two-possession game inside the final two minutes.
A quick glance of the statistics make it obvious that Darussafaka’s eventual 92-87 victory was largely explained by its success from long-range, with Douglas, Ozdemiroglu and co shooting a club record 18 three-pointers on 32 attempts for an impressive conversion rate of 56.3%.
But just as important in deciding the outcome was another factor which does not show up on the stat sheet: Darussafaka’s sheer will to win. For a group of players with supposedly ‘nothing to play for’, the effort put into the game by the Turkish side was truly impressive, illustrating once again the intensely competitive nature of the EuroLeague.
There were three different motivators for Darussafaka on the night: firstly, this was their final home game of the EuroLeague season; secondly, it was also a chance for revenge against Bayern after suffering a humiliating 116-70 defeat in Munich in Round 6, and thirdly, it was an opportunity to build some momentum ahead of the playoffs in domestic competition.
Kartal Ozmizrak, who came off the bench to deliver an outstanding performance including three of those 18 three-pointers, expressed all those factors as he noted: “It was our last home game and we are happy to win – in the first game they beat us by 46 and we knew this game was important. I was very upset when we lost the first game against them by 46, and in the Turkish league we’re coming into a crucial time and we want to be in the best shape.”
And it all goes to prove a point which should be blindingly obvious by now: in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, anyone can beat anyone.