Turkish clubs start Euroleague Top 16 on wrong foot
Aandolu Efes continued to blow cold in the Euroleague despite a solid league performance. AA PhotoBoth Anadolu Efes and Galatasaray lost their first Euroleague Top 16 games on Jan. 2 as the European elite clubs start their journey in the uncharted but treacherous waters of a stage that is organized for the first time in a two-groups-of-eight format.
Efes continued to blow cold in the Euroleague despite a solid league performance. The Blues were crushed on the road 84-65 by last year’s semifinalists Barcelona in the Group E in its first Euroleague game with Greek coach Evangelos Angelou who replaced Oktay Mahmudi at the club’s helm. The Catalans led by a sparkling Juan Carlos Navarro, a true “bête-noire” of Turkish clubs, never let the Blues contest for the win, eventually recording its eighth home win against Efes in as many games.
A 25-2 run initiated in the first quarter broke the game and Efes players were never able to reduce the margin below double-digits until the final buzzer despite of a timid comeback during the third quarter.
Navarro tallied 21 points in the win, while Brad Oleson scored 13 points from the bench and Kostas Papanikolau added 12 for the hosts.
Pivot Semih Erden led the Istanbul side with 15 points and Dusko Savanovic netted 12.
In Group F, Galatasaray held off their rivals Maccabi Electra for three quarters, but the Tel Aviv side capped a definitive comeback initiated after the break with a 10-0 run in a thrilling final quarter to seal a 84-90 victory in Istanbul.
Ricky Hickman paced the visitors with 24 points. Yohev Ogayon added 15 while Devin Smith tallied 14 points and 10 rebounds for Maccabi.
Carlos Arroyo’s 19 and Zoran Erceg’s 17 points were not enough for Galatasaray, which still misses a few players for injuries.
Coach Ergin Ataman pointed to the fact that had Galatasaray Liv Hospital’s rooster, which turned into an infirmary during the first Euroleague as inauspiciously suggested by the name of its sponsor, had been complete the Lions would beat their rivals of the day.
“A team that shoots 30 percent percent from the arc, shot 50 percent tonight. This is the Top 16. It’ll be tough. If we had full roster, including Furkan Aldemir, we’d beat Maccabi,” the temperamental coach said.
The third Turkish team in the Top 16, Fenerbahçe Ülker travels to Greece on Jan. 3 for a big game against double title-holders Olympiakos Piraeus.