By Eurohoops team / firstname.lastname@example.org
Sertac Sanli registered a career-high 24 points in his first game vs. Anadolu Efes after his departure from the team to lead Barcelona to a 95 – 93 overtime road win over the Turkish side in an intense rematch of last season’s EuroLeague championship game.
“I don’t know how I feel after this kind of game,” Sanli said. “It was really hard for me to play but I need to be professional and I did my job. That’s all. I need to look at it this way. Like I said, I don’t know how I feel. I cannot describe my feelings. It’s hard to play these guys. I spent the last three years with them. Like I said, I cannot say anything after a game like this.”
It was a dramatic clash especially down the stretch with stars Nikola Mirotic and Shane Larkin getting fouled out early in overtime and Efes coach Ergin Ataman getting ejected with back-to-back technical fouls with 2:45 to play. Ultimately, Barcelona grabbed its first win over Efes after four straight losses, including the 2021 Final. The Blaugrana, that are minus Nick Calathes and Cory Higgins, overcame a 12-point deficit early in the second half to first take the lead in the fourth period following multiple 3-pointers by Sanli.
Sanli also scored the last point of the game, a free throw for the 93 – 95, and intentionally missed the second free throw after Efes fouled him with two seconds to play. Barca had taken a four-point lead with 40 seconds remaining thanks to Rokas Jokubaitis making a tough 3-point play with a drive to the basket. Efes managed to stay alive with a 3-pointer by Adrien Moerman for the 94 – 95 but there was no time left to turn the situation around.
Vasilije Micic had 26 points and five rebounds for Efes while Moerman scored 14 points and Larkin had 14 points plus six assists before his ejection. The latter also hit the score-tying free throws at the end of regulation after a 3-pointer by Micic that pulled Efes back from a 75 – 80 deficit with 1:32 remaining.
Larkin exited the game with the score 89 – 91 and following 4-4 free throws from the technical on Ataman and a foul on Brandon Davies, Barcelona took an 84 – 91 lead. Efes responded with back-to-back 3-pointers by Micic and Krunoslav Simon before Jokubaitis’ decisive 3-point play.
Mirotic had 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists before he was forced to leave the game with five fouls. The Barca star missed the game-winning attempt at the end of regulation before his own fifth foul, one minute into the extra period.
“It was a tough loss for us,” Efes assistant Yakup Sekizkok said. “We were on the court to win. We prepared ourselves for the win, and everything went well for us in the first half. In the second half, Barcelona tried to disturb our offense by playing with a big lineup and switching on defense. We survived that and kept the game around seven or nine points until the fourth quarter. But offensive rebounds, putbacks and kick-outs after offensive rebounds which turned into three-point shots hurt us a lot
Young players growing
In light of his team’s absences, Barcelona coach Sarunas Jasikevicius gave plenty of important minutes to 19-year-old Jokubaitis and 22-year-old Sergi Martinez. The Lithuanian coach explained how this kind of games help his younger players mature.
“A lot of respect for my players,” Saras said. “A lot of things were against us. We kept going at it. At the end, we seemed to have control of the game, but we are playing with a lot of young guys. And young guys will make the mistakes: fouls and not understanding what defense we are in and giving up three-point shots. At the same time, it’s clear that the same young guys are getting better, getting more experienced and that’s also very important for us.”
“I think we played much better defensively in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter,” Saras mentioned on the match. “We managed to control the game a little bit, put doubts in their heads a little bit. In the end, to be honest, we were up by five points two or three times and we give up three-pointers and fouls after shots. It seems like we had the game won already, then we went to overtime. Then we again had the game won. We have to be more mature and finish the job. Because great teams like Efes will not give you many opportunities.”
Photo: EuroLeague Basketball