It was a massacre and a limp end to a season that promised so much for Fenerbahce. Emmet Ryan on how Bobby Dixon ripped the Istanbul giants assunder to send Pinar Karsiyaka to the Turkish Basketball League Finals
The final score said Karisyaka won by 18 points but for a full 40 minutes it was an assault on the team that was supposed to cruise to the Turkish finals. Fenerbahce had the Euroleague MVP in Nemanja Bjelica, one of the hottest young stars in Bogdan Bogdanovic, a backcourt master called Andrew Goudelock, and a really big dude from the Czech Republic who likes to dunk on everyone in Jan Vesely. Fenerbahce are bigger, objectively better, and unquestionably deeper than anyone in Turkey save for maybe Efes. What they weren’t on Saturday and really hadn’t been all series was able to handle Bobby Dixon.
It wasn’t a one-man show, all the pieces in Karsiyaka’s small ball armada were critical to their success in this series but Dixon was the MVP of irrepressible swag in this series. Dixon was the face of confidence that meant a team that looked like Cinderella in its wins in Game 1 and Game 3 looked like the Hulk in this rout. The TBL site is painfully slow at updating so that allows some creativity in our assessment of his line.
Bobby Dixon, a headband wearing point guard who jacks threes with total confidence no matter the situation scored all the points except for the buckets he assisted on. This is an unquestioned fact.
Technically speaking he only scored 24 but his run through the final quarter, when Fenerbahce were expected to make a late charge as they had done in those previous Karsiyaka wins showed why this Karsiyaka team believes it can beat anyone. As Dixon danced on court, a fan hoisted him on his shoulders with the American holding a water bottle like it was the championship trophy for the adoring supporters around him. This crowd has been hot throughout the playoffs, Banvit had already found that in the quarter finals as they were ripped asunder in a decisive Game 3. For Karsiyaka, this game was seen as the one they needed to win. Going back to Istanbul and giving the giants a chance to take the series on their home court wasn’t on the table. Dixon had led the underdogs to an upset at Fenerbahce in the opening game of the series but they had also survived a late comeback from Fener and eked out the win in OT. The first game in Karsiyaka a couple of nights ago was no different. Game 3 saw Karisyaka take command early only to see Fener reel them in. A fourth-chance tip-in gave them the win in OT but finishing off this series wouldn’t be about luck and good fortune.
On Saturday, in a suburb of Izmir that I couldn’t find on the map before this morning, Pinar Karisyaka took a leaf out of the Golden State Warriors and unleashed the type of small ball assault that is either a work of genius, madness, or hopefully both. While scrappiness and heart were easy narratives for their previous two wins in this series, this game was all about shining up their boots, running like hell, and kicking ass. Fener were statuesque throughout and had stunningly made no adjustments for a must-win road game against an opponent that had rolled with the small-ball game throughout the series. In the other two wins, Karsiyaka ran out of gas, in this game they decided to leave nothing in the tank for a possible Game 5.
At the end of the first, it was going to script with Karsiyaka ahead but far from unassailably in command. By the 20 minute mark, there was no doubt they were better but Fener still had time. Then in the third, the comeback came. A Bogdan Bogdanovic three cut the deficit to just 6 points. Based on Karsiyaka’s other two wins, it was supposed to be all about whether Karsiyaka could hang on and stop the giants from reeling them in.
Dixon, DJ Strawberry, Kenny Gabriel, and Jon Diebler all had other ideas. They were in no mood to hang on to anything but the rim as they rained fire upon the Istanbul giants. Fenerbahce would get no closer as the lead soared past the 20 point mark late in the fourth. The final score, 82-64, was in anything kind to the losers. Pinar Karsiyaka are in the Turkish finals for the first time since winning the title in 1986/87. It’s all gravy from hear and Bobby Dixon plans to drink it by the gallon.