The very first thing Coach Ergin Ataman said in the microphone after his team's resounding road win at FC Barcelona Lassa on Wednesday night was: "We played a perfect game."
What else could the Anadolu Efes Istanbul boss say after his team disposed of Barcelona 68-102 in a game it led from start to finish to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Efes has now come within one victory of winning its first EuroLeague Playoffs series and one win from clinching a spot at the EuroLeague Final Four for the first time in almost two decades.
The win looked perfect because Efes scored more points than any other team in a playoff game in 14 years and set club playoff records in points (102), performance index rating (129), assists (25), three-pointers made (14) and two-point accuracy (74.3%). It was also perfect because through three quarters Efes had 20 assists and only 2 turnovers.
Coming off the bench, Shane Larkin starred with 30 points - another club playoff record - and he was the undeniable leader in the victory. But even he fed off a great start to the game by his teammates. Larkin did not score until the second quarter and it was one man, in particular, veteran guard Krunoslav Simon, who boosted Efes's confidence and started the show with his play and shot-making in the opening minutes of the contest.
"In this kind of game, it is very important in the first quarter that the team gets confidence," Coach Ataman pointed out.
Simon was that guy for Efes. He hit 3 triples in the early going and dished a no-look pass for a corner three by Rodrigue Beaubois in fueling the visitors to a 9-20 lead after only 7 minutes. Simon scored 9 of his 11 points in the opening minutes and also had 8 assists and 4 rebounds in the victory. After he started things, the rest of his teammates continued the scoring.
Efes went on to score 26 points in the first and another 26 points in the second quarter before torching Barcelona for 32 points in the third stanza. The visitors' lead peaked at 62-100 in the fourth quarter and Efes could have shattered the EuroLeague history books if it needed to. In the end, the 34-point margin of victory was the biggest road win in the playoffs since 2005 when Tau Ceramica beat Benetton in Treviso 59-98 and the largest playoff win of any kind since Olympiacos Piraeus set the record by beating Montepaschi Siena 89-41 in 2011.