The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs come to a close on Wednesday with Game 5 of the best-of-five series between Anadolu Efes Istanbul and FC Barcelona Lassa. Here is a look at some of the storylines to follow in this clash for a ticket to the 2019 Final Four in Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Larkin and co. chase playoff records
Efes's Shane Larkin is in the hunt for a number of record for a best-of-five EuroLeague playoff series. He can set history in scoring, free throws made, three-pointers, steals and performance index rating. The record for points is 99 set by Terrell McIntyre for Montepaschi Siena in 2009. For total performance index rating, it's 120 by Dimitris Diamantidis for Panathinaikos Athens in 2012. Larkin enters Game 5 with 80 points and an accumulated PIR of 84. He has 13 triples so far and the record is 17 by Vassilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos in 2017. Larkin has 6 steals and the record is 12, set by Pablo Prigioni with Real Madrid in 2011.
Larkin's backcourt mate Vasilije Micic has 23 assists so far in these playoffs. He would need 13 more to tie Kostas Slukas for the most in a playoff series. Sloukas delivered 36 for Fenerbahce last season. Bryant Dunston's 7 blocks are already tied for the fourth-most in playoff history. The record is 10, shared by Richard Hendrix and D'Or Fischer, both with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Dunston has 22 career blocks in the playoffs and needs 4 more to tie Ioannis Bourousis for the most accumulated playoff blocks. Forward Adrien Moerman is in striking distance of the record for minutes played in a series. He's spent 144:41 on the floor for Efes through four games. The record is 172:12 by Diamantidis in 2013.
Barca seeks a third Game 5 triumph
This season is the 11th year that the playoff format has been best-of-five and in that time only nine series have gone the distance. Each time, the team that hosted Game 5 won the series and went on to the Final Four. Ironically, Efes and Barcelona have been involved in more than half of them. Wednesday's Game 5 will be the first in two years and it will have one of the same participants. Efes was on the road that time and lost 87-78 at Olympiacos Piraeus. In that series, Efes led 2-1 and blew a double-digit lead in Game 4 and a 4-point halftime lead in Game 5. The year before, the only series to go five games featured Barcelona, which lost 81-67 at Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. Barcelona led through three quarters in both Games 4 and 5, but Lokomotiv came back to win each game and the series.
Barcelona has won Game 5s twice before. Once in 2013 against Panathinaikos Athens to reach the Final Four in London. Ante Tomic is the only player who remains on the Barcelona roster from that season's squad. Efes lost a Game 5 that season at Olympiacos. Barcelona's other Game 5 victory came in 2009 over Baskonia for a berth in the Final Four in Berlin.
Back to the Final Four!
Regardless of which team wins, there will be some players returning to the big stage for the second season in a row, while some men will clinch a Final Four berth after more than a decade of waiting. Guards Vasilije Micic of Efes and Kevin Pangos of Barcelona were teammates last season at Zalgiris Kaunas as it snapped a nearly two-decade-long Final Four drought. A quartet of Barcelona players competed at the 2016 Final Four; Adam Hanga and Jaka Blazic made it with Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz and Victor Claver and Chris Singleton with Lokomotiv. Efes center Bryant Dunston reached the 2015 championship game with Olympiacos.
Head coach Ergin Ataman of Efes and Svetislav Pesic of Barcelona last coached at the Final Four in 2003 in Barcelona. Ataman led Montepaschi Siena to third place, while Pesic led Barcelona to its maiden EuroLeague crown. Pesic, who also won the EuroLeague as a player, is the only former champ from either squad.