Anadolu Efes Istanbul has done something it has not done before in the EuroLeague this century by winning eight straight games. Efes reached it with a 68-74 road win at Zalgiris Kaunas, which also happens to be the team's seventh win in eight road games this season, something head coach Ergin Ataman proudly stressed after the game.
Efes had a pair of seven-game winnings streak before, but never eight and now it boasts a league-best 12-2 record. In fact, Ataman's squad is just one win shy of the club's best-ever start in the competition. That feat dates back to the 2004-05 campaign when Efes won 13 of its first 15 games.
Efes has impressed so far this season with Shane Larkin taking the spotlight, but Larkin was far from his best at the packed Zalgirio Arena. He finished with just 6 points, shooting 0-for-4 from three-point range. Vasilije Micic and Rodrigue Beaubois picked up the perimeter scoring, but Efes is so good this season because it has players that do not need to score to make a huge impact. That is where big man Chris Singleton has stood out.
An iron man who has never missed any of his team's 147 games since making his EuroLeague debut, Singleton has filled in admirably in the absence of injured starting center Bryant Dunston. However, it is still hard to remember a game where a player had as big of a positive impact despite going scoreless for the game as Singleton did on Tuesday.
Singleton missed all 5 of his field goal attempts, but he was irreplaceable and played 34 minutes while collecting a game-high 10 rebounds along with 2 assists and 4 steals. He paced the team to a 41-32 rebounding advantage and was seemingly everywhere on defense. Two of his steals came in the fourth quarter on perfectly read plays, including one with 60 seconds to go that took away the last hope Zalgiris had.
For Efes, which has won 12 of 13 games after losing the season opener, it is only fitting that a chance to match its best-ever start comes on Friday against defending champion CSKA Moscow, the team that beat Efes last May in the championship game and left it deprived of EuroLeague glory.
Efes did not have Chris Singleton last season, and he is proving to be a quiet difference-maker that it just might need to achieve the largest of goals.