Wide-open race expected in Turkish league playoffs

Wide-open race expected in Turkish league playoffs

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Wide-open race expected in Turkish league playoffs

Beşiktaş Milangaz forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu (2L) and Galatasaray’s Cevher Özer (R) vie for a rebound during a Turkish League match. AA photo

Galatasaray Medical Park will hope its regular season success will translate into another good run in the post-season, as the Beko Turkish Basketball League (TBL) playoffs start this weekend. 

The Istanbul team starts its best-of-three playoff series against Tofaş on May 5 at the Abdi İpekçi Arena. Galatasaray Medical Park finished the regular season with a 25-5 winning record, and bettered Banvit, who was also on a 25-5 winning record, only on points difference. With some favorites having underperformed in the regular season, the playoffs are still expected to be a wide open race. 

Second-spot Banvit takes on Aliağa Petkim in another game played on Saturday. 

Galatasaray Medical Park had a season that exceeded its expectations, especially including a fabulous run in Turkish League Airlines Euroleague, although none of that will matter if the team cannot win its first league title since 1990. 

Coach Oktay Mahmuti, who enjoyed four consecutive league titles from 2001 to 2005 with Efes Pilsen, has turned Galatasaray into a prolific side that can deliver both on the national and the continental level. 

The team advanced to the Top 16 stage of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague in its first season in the top-level European basketball club competition, and only missed the Top 8 stage by a single defeat. The tough-defending Lions are not as stingy as they were in mid-season, and will miss Josh Shipp in the playoffs, but are still doubtless a force to be reckoned with. 

Even though Galatasaray Medical Park and Banvit took the top two spots of the standings, all eyes will be on another tie on Sunday. 

Beşiktaş Milangaz and Fenerbahçe Ülker, the other two members besides Galatasaray of Turkish sports’ “big three,” will meet in a quarterfinal tie, that brings two title contenders against each other. 

Defending champion Fenerbahçe Ülker has suffered squad problems all year, and failed to maintain the high level of form they have sustained in recent years. 

Beşiktaş Milangaz, on the other hand, is high on morale after winning the Eurochallenge trophy last week. Coach Ergin Ataman managed to keep his team under control through personnel changes, including seeing his key players - superstar point guard Deron Williams and Turkish center Semih Erden - leave the club at the end of the NBA lockout. Guard Carlos Arroyo and forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu well replaced those who left, and Beşiktaş looks to be in a better condition ahead of this weekend’s tie. 

Another match will see third-place Anadolu Efes take on Pınar Karşıyaka, kicking off the playoff action on Sunday.