By Stefan Djordjevic/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The experience gap
Efes has made it here for the first time but Fenerbahce has done it five times in a row. Coach Zeljko Obradovic is the winningest person (player or coach) in EuroLeague history with nine titles and this will be his 18th Final Four. On the other side, this is coach Ergin Ataman’s first Final Four appearance since 2003, when he coached Siena.
There is an experience gap between the players as well and most of Fenerbahce’s squad already played the Final Four (nine of them were part of Fener‘s 2017 championship team). Melih Mahmutoglu and Jan Vesely have been with Fener in all five Final Four appearances while Kostas Sloukas won three EuroLeague titles so far and interestingly, he has never lost a semifinal game. Efes, on the other hand, has only two players with Final Four experience in Vasilije Micic and Bryant Dunston who had one appearance each with the latter making it to the Final.
Head-to-head and stats
The squads have clashed six times this season in various competitions and won three games each. Efes took the Turkish Super Cup, and won once in the Turkish League and once in the EuroLeague. Fener grabbed the other Turkish League and EuroLeague games along with the Turkish Cup Final.
The stats of the top four teams rarely differ significantly across the board and such is the case this time as well. However, the tempo has always been crucial in basketball and it might very well be the key in this game.
Fenerbahce has been opening the games very good winning 25 first quarters with a +126 margin and they have been the best closers this season winning 28 fourth quarters with a +179 total margin. However, they tend to fall off before the halftime and especially in the third quarter in which they have 50% success and have a -2 margin. That’s exactly what Efes will count on. In fact, Efes usually dominates the third quarter winning 25 of them with a +125 total margin. However, it won’t mean much if they don’t improve their fourth-quarter play in which they have a -3 margin, that’s especially true vs. an experienced Fener team.
The big advantage for Efes could be that Fenerbahce has arrived quite beaten up. Joffrey Lauvergne and Luigi Datome won’t play while Nikola Kalinic and Jan Vesely might not be at 100%. The board control will fall on Nicolo Melli‘s shoulders as he goes against one of the most dominant bigs, Bryant Dunston, which is also the most experienced Efes’ player. Vasilije Micic and Shane Larkin as Efes’ driving force will have to step up as well against Fener’s veteran duo of Kostas Sloukas and Bobby Dixon.