Never count out Pinar Karsiyaka, that was the lesson on Tuesday night as an epic comeback from 15 points down saw them beat Anadolu Efes 91-88 in overtime to take a 3-1 lead in the Turkish Finals
After 70 minutes of looking ordinary in the last two games, it only took 15 more to be reminded why some Pinar Karsiyaka fans add ‘President’ to the start of Bobby Dixon’s name.
Efes entered this game knowing they had to change radically on the fly. With Nenad Krstic done, likely until December if not later, going big wasn’t going to cut it. The D switched substantially to a more pressing approach, much like the same being deployed by Karsiyaka. Bobby Dixon wasn’t given the special treatment he had received in Game 3 but he was still limited by Efes once again heavily pressuring the inbounds.
Offensively this led to a clunky first quarter which seemed only to suit Karsiyaka’s Juan Palacios. It was Efes who looked more dangerous in space with Matt Janning, Dario Saric, and Cedi Osman looking to tire the home side.
The second frame saw matters open up a bit if only because of how horribly scrappy it was early. With both teams hitting the bonus inside of 4 minutes, space was a by-product of both sides toning down the physicality a touch. Stratus Perperoglu took centre stage for Efes on offence. The big Greek finished the half with 16 points. Dixon and Jon Diebler kept the scoreboard ticking over for Karsiyaka in order to avoid falling into a big hole, with Efes holding a slender 35-37 advantage at the half.
As has been the question for Karsiyaka going back to their third game with Fenerbahce, the stamina of Karsiyaka was going to come under scrutiny in the closing 20 minutes. The first half had seen the hosts come out without the zest that had guided them to a 2-1 lead in the series. Now they had to bring it back to put some daylight between them and the Istanbul club.
Instead it was Efes who roared out the gates and quickly extended their advantage to double digits. Birkan Batuk carried the load as the Istanbul club spread the floor to keep the pace up. Karsiyaka, a team that had thrived on running teams into oblivion, was now struggling to keep up and they couldn’t buy a made bucket. A Dixon three briefly restored hope but Janning struck back immediately and Perperoglou followed up quickly with a lay-up that forced a timeout. This was Efes at their most ruthless. Just like Fener in the previous round, the home side was clearly inferior on paper but this time the power club was actually making it count. Down Krstic, Efes had got faster and more physical. After 30 minutes, the home side looked done.
The final frame saw the home side spring to life. Within 4 minutes Karsiyaka had chipped 9 points off the Efes lead to only trail 65-71. Dixon, naturally, was leading the comeback with Kenny Gabriel offering support. Offensively Karsiyaka had to cut loose and hope they could make just enough stops against Efes. It’s hardly the most tactically deep approach but they had little choice. Stephane Lasme however was on hand to calm matters for Efes, working the interior and keeping some space between the sides on the scoreboard. The spark was still there from Karsiyaka but Efes didn’t need to score on every possession and the favourites were able to keep the game flowing, for the most part, to their liking.
That was at least until Diebler made a long two and DJ Strawberry followed that up with a lay-up to cut the gap to 5. Strawberry, the hero of Game 3, then made it a one-possession game and Efes were under pressure in front of one of the most hostile crowds in sport. Diebler once more came big with a three to make it a 2 point game before everything got truly silly.
Efes stole an inbounds from Karsiyaka only for Perperoglu to get stuffed and then Dixon fed Kenny Gabriel put Karsiyaka 82-81 ahead with 9 seconds on the clock. Lasme moved in for a lay-up but was fouled within two seconds. Then, just because a wild fourth quarter comeback about to get undone from the line wasn’t enough, there was a problem with the ball. Lasme got up again and went 1 of 2 to tie it up. Dixon missed a tough jumper on the buzzer and, for the fourth time in Karsiyaka’s last 8 games there was overtime.
As expected, it was a hot mess with Karsiyaka being led by an inspired Dixon while Janning was essentially mounting a one-man resistance for Efes. It wasn’t enough to deny the underdogs. Now Pinar Karsiyaka, a team which on paper has no business being there, has fought it’s way to within one win of the Turkish Basketball League title.