Turkey’s Anadolu Efes looks to maintain hot streak

Turkey’s Anadolu Efes looks to maintain hot streak

ATHENS - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey’s Anadolu Efes looks to maintain hot streak

Anadolu Efes’ Kerem Tunceri (C) vies with CSKA Moskow’s Sasha Kaun (R) and Milos Teodosic (L) during an Euroleague basketball match between Anadolu Efes and CSKA Moscow on February 22, 2013 at Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul. AFP photo

Anadolu Efes visits Panathinaikos in an important Turkish Airlines Euroleague game tonight as the Istanbul team hopes to maintain its winning streak. The Greens are riding high after a big road win at Zalgiris last week, but they run into the hottest team in the league right now. Efes is on a seven-game winning streak, which started after a 78-64 victory over Panathinaikos in January in Istanbul. The big difference between that game and this one is that former MVP Dimitris Diamantidis sat out that week for Panathinaikos. With this season’s assists leader back in the saddle, the Greens are a much tougher foe.

“We recently play good basketball and fight on court,” coach Oktay Mahmuti told the Euroleague website. “As a result we climbed to the top of the group. But including the Panathinaikos game there are six more games to fight, so nothing is finished yet. If we win in Athens, we will have a big advantage. To go on staying at the top and to qualify for the Playoffs we want to return back with a victory.”

Efes is sitting on top of the group with Real Madrid on a 7-1 winning record ahead of CSKA Moscow and Panathinaikos, both on 5-3.

CSKA Moscow hosts Alba Berlin tonight, while Unicaja Malaga (4-4) and Zalgiris Kaunas (3-5) meet for a crucial spot in the playoffs. “It will be a very difficult and tough game for both teams. Panathinaikos is a strong team, and they will play at home,” Efes guard Jamon Gordon said. “There really will be a big fight on court between two teams. But our aim is to stay at the top and to qualify to Playoffs from the highest position in our group. In accordance to this target we are only concentrated in winning.”

Eyes on point guards

All eyes will be on the point guard battle, since Efes sports a top guard of its own in Jordan Farmar against Diamantidis.

Panathinaikos’ Roko Ukic was the star last week as he picked up a share of the week’s MVP title after leading the team to victory. Marcus Banks can also handle the ball, while shooters Mike Bramos and Jason Kapono complete a strong backcourt and Jonas Maciulis fits in at small forward.

For Efes, Kerem Tunçeri is the secondary ball handler, while Sasha Vujacic is the ideal offensive shooting guard, Gordon is a premier defensive guard and Josh Shipp plays a glue-like complementary role.

Both teams have big bodies inside too. It doesn’t get bigger than former All-Euroleague center Sofoklis Schortsanitis, who makes for a strong frontline alongside of shot-blocking stud Stephane Lasme, James Gist and veteran Kostas Tsartsaris. Efes will turn to Semih Erden, Kerem Gönlüm and Stako Barac to counter Big Sofo, while power forward Dusko Savanovic is a classic “stretch-4” for the visitors.

Statistically speaking, these teams are quite similar to each other, with the biggest difference being that Panathinaikos relies on the three-point shot more than Efes does. That said, Efes has the shooters to do that too. Even though the matchup of Farmar and Diamantidis could draw the most attention, it could turn out that the secondary guards – Ukic and Bramos for the hosts, Lucas and Vujacic for the visitors – have the greater impact on the outcome.