A fantastic individual display from DJ Strawberry was critical for Pinar Karsiyaka as they took Game 3 of the TBL Finals 71-65 to take a 2-1 series lead over Anadolu Efes
Efes had a plan for the road trip to Karsiyaka and it radically changed the expected tempo of this game. Outright stopping Bobby Dixon was never on the cards but slowing him was a way to limit the speed of Karsiyaka on offence. In isolation, the strategy worked as Dixon was held to a more mortal 14 points and 4 assists on the day but Karsiyaka proved they wouldn’t live and die by Dixon as they ground out a win.
DJ Strawberry was the unquestioned star, taking the load where Dixon couldn’t. With 26 points for the game, Strawberry was a persistent threat in the paint and from mid-range. His efficiency prevented Efes from ever building any real breathing room despite looking the superior side through the opening two quarters.
Dario Saric had a brilliant start to the game. The Croatian, who is being viewed fondly from afar by Philadelphia 76ers fans, benefitted from a role where he was the man who brought pace to the Efes attack. With 13 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists, he was a menace to Karsiyaka for most of the game. Saric was ably backed up by Stephane Lasme who kept the heat on the hosts through the first half at both ends. The turning point in the third quarter however would severely weaken both men’s impact.
Nenad Krstic went down with what looked to be a bad ankle sprain in the third quarter. Krstic had done a fine job up to that point in creating space for Saric to slash with freedom despite have a personally frustrating outing. The tone of the game changed immediately. Whereas Efes had been going toe-to-toe with the home side through the first two and a half quarters, they clearly looked shook at the loss of Krstic and Karsiyaka wasted little time taking command. Although the lead never stretched beyond 8 points, the pace of the game swung in Karsiyaka’s favour and Efes were now facing a tougher time breaking down the press D of the home side.
Through the closing minutes, Karsiyaka took a blunt but effective approach to closing out the contest. Soner Senturk finished the game with all of 1 point to his name but he spotted in for Dixon on multiple Efes possessions late. Senturk was there for his D and it also gave Dixon ample rest to come back in and run the offence in the closing stages.
With Game 5 to come in Karsiyaka on Tuesday, a raft of adjustments is likely. Karsisyaka got by without Dixon firing on all cylinders tonight thanks to Strawberry and an energetic performance from Juan Palacios on D but they need to find a way to make more space for the man who sets the tone on offence. The biggest question however hangs over Krstic. Without him or even with him below full health, Efes are going to have to make major switches to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole. In Dusan Ivkovic they have the type of mind that is up to the challenge but that sweatbox in Karsiyaka is not the ideal location to adapt on the fly.