It was a key battle to reach the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague playoffs and the game definitely lived up to all expectations, as Valencia Basket and Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul left everything on the court at La Fonteta on Friday night. When the dust settled, Fenerbahce walked away with a key road victory and also claimed the tie-break advantage against the Spanish side, taking a critical step forwards in the playoffs race.
Valencia did not play at all badly, finishing the game with a team PIR of 104, its highest ever in a non-overtime loss. It was Valencia's second highest PIR in a loss, as it got a PIR of 117 in a double-overtime home loss against AX Armani Exchange Milan, 98-103, on November 15, 2017.
The home side did almost everything right, allowing Fenerbahce to pull down only 3 offensive rebounds - tying its season-low mark - and shooting the ball really well, hitting 56% of its two-point shots (14-of-25), 45.2% from downtown (14-of-31) and 16-of-19 free throws (84.2%), all better than its season averages. Valencia also dished 21 assists and limited turnovers to just 9.
But that was not enough to win because Fenerbahce had arguably one of the most efficient games ever seen in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.
Fenerbahce hit 21-of-28 two-point shots (75%), the club’s third-best mark in competition history - it previously made 75.9% against CSKA on March 16, 2018 and 75.7% against JSF Nanterre on December 19, 2013. Moreover, Fenerbahce downed 9-of-10 free throws (90%) and converted 56% of its three-point shots (14-of-25). That meant that for the first time in EuroLeague history, Friday night in La Fonteta saw a team hit better than 50% three-pointers plus at least 75% two-point shots and 90% free throws.
The closest team to this achievement was Zalgiris Kaunas, which hit 75% two-point shots, 50% three-pointers and 85.7% free throws in an 87-80 win against Real Madrid on April 11, 2014. Obradovic-coached Panathinaikos was also close (69.2% 2FG, 68.2% 3FG, 100% FT) in an 111-103 home win against Montepaschi Siena on April 16, 2003. But no team this century has ever done what Fenerbahce did on Friday night.
"If you see our shooting percentages tonight, and the fact, even more important, that everyone who played tonight had at least one assist, that means we played as a team after a long time," Obradovic said after the game, even when he was not fully satisfied. "Still, after their last timeout, they went on a 10-2 run and I don't know how many games we lost like that."
It was Fenerbahce's fifth consecutive road win, but its next goal is to play with consistency in front of its own fans. Fenerbahce is 6-7 at home and will play 4 of its 8 remaining games at Ulker Sports Hall. But if Obradovic’s men can shoot the ball like they did in La Fonteta, the sky is the limit.