Fenerbahçe eyes victory at Zalgiris to take Euroleague playoff series lead
Fenerbahçe Beko visits Zalgiris Kaunas on April 23 in its bid to make it to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four for the fifth consecutive year, but finds itself in unfamiliar territory as this is the first time under coach Zeljko Obradovic that Fenerbahçe did not win the first two games of its playoff series.
The two teams split wins in the first two games of the best-of-five series in Istanbul. In Game 1, Fenerbahçe took control behind a stellar defensive performance to beat Zalgiris 76-43. It was the largest Euroleague playoffs win in Fenerbahçe history and the fourth largest all-time, while Zalgiris set a club low for points scored in a Euroleague game.
Nikola Kalinic led Fenerbahçe with 16 points in that game. Two days later, Zalgiris responded and built a 17-point lead before withstanding a Fenerbahçe rally and holding on for an 80-82 victory. Edgaras Ulanovas led the winners with 20 points and seven rebounds.
Edgaras Ulanovas played a great Game 2, shining with 20 points and 7 rebounds, but equally important to that offensive contribution were his defensive battles against Nikola Kalinic, Marko Guduric and Nicolo Melli. Kalinic led Fenerbahçe with 16 points in the opener, but missed all 5 field goals in Game 2. Both are the types of players whose contributions are not measured just by statistics. But when they are involved and on their game, it always serves their teams well.
Fenerbahçe’s defense dominated Game 1 and the fourth quarter of Game 2, fueling a big rally that eventually came up short. In Kaunas, with fans in a packed arena giving a push for the other team, Fenerbahçe cannot allow itself a slow start. The team needs to come out and stay focused while matching the intensity and a high energy level that Zalgiris will certainly bring into this game. Despite the fact it lost the home-court advantage, Fenerbahçe knows its defense can help win any game in any place.
Also in the Euroleague playoffs, Barcelona Lassa welcomes Anadolu Efes on April 24 for the first of two games at Palau Blaugrana after stealing home-court advantage in the series with a thrilling Game 2 victory in Istanbul on April 19.
A victory would bring Barcelona closer to something it has never done before: Win a Euroleague playoff series without home-court advantage. On the other hand, Efes has not won in Barcelona since 2011, but a win in this game would bring it with a victory of its first playoff series win this century.
Efes has been scoring 12 points fewer in this series than it did during the course of the regular season and has also shot just 34.4 percent from long range in the first two games of this series after connecting on 40.7 percent of three-point shots before the playoffs.
Krunoslav Simon and Adrien Moerman will need to get those percentages up, while Rodrigue Beaubois has not even attempted a three-point shot in this series.
Elsehwere in Euroleague playoffs, Real Madrid takes a 2-0 lead to Athens when it plays Panathinaikos on April 23 and Baskonia will try to protect its home floor at Fernando Buesa Arena on April 24 and take a lead in its series against CSKA Moscow for the first time.