Galatasaray keeps the dream alive
Galatasaray Medical Park Jamon Lucas Gordon (22) jumps for a lay-up during his team’s win over Anadolu Efes in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague. Gordon finished the game with nine points.Galatasaray Medical Park continues to write one of the greatest fairytales in European basketball this year.
The Lions beat Anadolu Efes 64-56 to advance to the second spot in Group E of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16.
The win marked a reversal of fortunes for the two Turkish teams: Galatasaray is now one win away from advancing to the Top 8 stage in the top-level European competition, while Anadolu Efes, the current Turkish league leader and by far the most expensive team in the country, was eliminated - falling miserably short of its dream of participating in the Euroleague Final Four, which will be played at their home court of the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul.
In the other game of the group, CSKA Moscow crushed Olympiacos top with four wins in five games.
Galatasaray trails CSKA with three wins, while the Greek side has two wins. Efes, who beat Galatasaray on the first match day of the group, is fourth with just one win.
Galatasaray still has to win next week at Olympiacos to reach the playoffs, but that is a situation coach Oktay Mahmuti would probably have taken if he had been asked at the beginning of the season.
“After 15 games [in the Euroleague], we deserve to play a final-like game to advance to the Top 8,” Mahmuti said at the post-game press conference. “That means a lot for us. We will have the chance to draw our own fate. We will play in Athens for one more win.”
The Lions, who are one of the three Turkish teams in the competition, with Efes and Turkish champion Fenerbahçe Ülker, have exceeded expectations by far in their debut season at Euroleague.
The Istanbul side has qualified for the Euroleague after surviving a tough preliminary stage, and was seen as a team that would just be happy to have qualified for the top stage of continental basketball.
However, in the group stage Galatasaray showed it would not settle for just the appearance and advanced to the next stage, the Top 16, after the Euroleague regular season.
With both Fenerbahçe Ülker and Anadolu Efes badly underperforming in the Top 16 stage, Galatasaray, a Euroleague rookie and a comparably lower-budgeted team, shined.
After opening their Top 16 campaign with a loss to Efes, a hard-fought overtime win over Olympiacos gave the team some hope. A third-week defeat at CSKA Moscow was somewhat expected, but the tables were turned in the return game with the Russians. Galatasaray bounced back with a famous win over CSKA, bringing the 13-game winning streak of what is arguably the continent’s best team to an end on Feb. 15.
If the CSKA Moscow game showed Galatasaray was daring to dream, the Efes game proved the team would continue battling for the dream, “until the very last shot,” as in the slogan of the team’s boisterous fans.
“To win against a great team like Efes is really important,” Galatasaray forward Caner Topaloğlu was quoted as saying on the official Euroleague website. “Now the whole team is waiting for next week.”