By Mehmet Bahadır Akgün / firstname.lastname@example.org
To say that Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul is on the rise is simply an understatement in relation to what head coach Igor Kokoskov’s team has been doing since late December. Its defeat at the hands of Zalgiris Kaunas in Round 15 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season on December 17 marked Fenerbahce‘s seventh loss in the previous eight games. Fenerbahce had just been handed its 10th loss of the season and was second-to-last in the standings, trailed only by Khimki Moscow Region.
Coming out of a rough patch, Kokoskov kept underlining one significant philosophy: “We keep playing hard, but we have to play smart as well.”
Right before Round 16, Fenerbahce signed Marko Guduric, who had played for the Turkish team before moving overseas. Since his arrival, Fenerbahce has won all nine subsequent games in the EuroLeague. In the meantime, the team climbed up the rankings. The next round saw CSKA Moscow suffer its first defeat in the previous 13 rounds. Before that, CSKA was atop the standings and Fenerbahce’s chances for the playoffs were being doubted by many.
Since then, led by center Jan Vesely, the Turkish team has literally taken off. Now, it’s a question of how far Fenerbahce can rise. Only 45 days after December 22, when it was so close to the bottom of the standings, Fenerbahce defeated Zenit St. Petersburg for its ninth EuroLeague win in a row. Where once Fenerbahce was separated from CSKA in the standings by seven wins and 16 spots, it is now firmly in the playoffs picture, with just four fewer wins than CSKA. The possibility of home-court advantage is the new item on Fenerbahce’s agenda.
Fenerbahce’s recent dominance has been nothing short of impressive. Along the way, Fenerbahce beat Olympiacos Piraeus and LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, the latter by a wide margin. Lorenzo Brown’s game-winner in Belgrade sealed the win against his former team, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade. The longer the streak became, the more impressive it got, with Fenerbahce beating powerhouses by wide margins.
Fenerbahce had lost by 18 points by TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz in the Fernando Buesa Arena. A win by over 18 points may have seemed impossible to many but not so to Vesely and his company. The victories against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv and Zenit came at home for the Turkish giants. Beating CSKA and Khimki in Moscow was equally impressive, to say the least. Fenerbahce matched several records against Khimki by tying the most points, highest index rating and fourth-biggest point difference in the club’s history.
Fenerbahce’s streak was impressive in the sense that they won most of the games by wide margins. This season, only Zalgiris Kaunas has had a higher point-difference average among all the teams that have had five-game winning streaks or more.
|TEAM||WIN STREAK||POINT DIFF. AVERAGE||WINS ON THE ROAD|
|CSKA Moscow||12 games||10.8 pts||6 games|
|Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul||9 games||14.3 pts||3 games|
|FC Barcelona||7 games||12.9 pts||3 games|
|AX Armani Exchange Milan||6 games||12.3 pts||2 games|
|FC Barcelona||6 games||10.0 pts||4 games|
|Real Madrid||6 games||9.8 pts||3 games|
|Zalgiris Kaunas||6 games||16.5 pts||2 games|
|Real Madrid||5 games||12.6 pts||2 games|
At the same time, Fenerbahce’s streak is the second-longest streak this EuroLeague season and the third-longest registered by any Turkish team in the competition. The holder of the current record for Turkish teams is Fenerbahce, too, with 12 games in a row in the 2018-19 campaign. And the current one is still alive.
In addition to Vesely’s MVP-caliber performance, Guduric‘s leadership in half-court situations relieved Nando De Colo to score at a much more consistent level. Meanwhile, Dyshawn Pierre has shown that he is capable of defending anyone on the court with his impressive fundamentals and great athleticism. Jarell Eddie deserves a huge shout-out as well, considering how much he improved in certain areas.
Can they achieve a new club-high by beating ALBA Berlin, Anadolu Efes Istanbul at home and AX Armani Exchange Milan and Villeurbanne on the road? Can they actually get the home-court advantage at the end of the current regular season, as they did in previous years? That remains to be seen, but Fenerbahce proved one thing: they’re still capable of aspiring to the high achievements that their fans have come to expect. Kokoskov transformed Zeljko Obradovic‘s Fenerbahce into a new model that aims to be equally successful. The transformation was painful for those fans, but now that their team is back on track, it will be exciting to see how far Fenerbahce can go.