Anadolu Efes needed overtime to take down Pinar Karsiyaka 95-92 in Game 1 of the Turkish League finals and Emmet Ryan says if the rest of the series is half this fun it’ll be a wild one
There’s no keeping Bobby Dixon down. Another game, another ridiculously confident performance by the American point guard backed up by the box score. Before landing in Karsiyaka at the start of last season, Dixon was a serviceable but hardly high profile point guard having bounced around for most of his career. In these playoffs we have seen what we were missing before he stepped into the spotlight. Tonight was no different, with Dixon putting up 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. It was the type of game we have come to expect from Dixon and the start of the match looked awfully familiar too.
As they had against Fenerbahce throughout their semi-final series, Karsiyaka got off to a hot start against their far more illustrious opponents. Unlike Fenerbahce, Efes never looked lost at sea. Duda Ivkovic had seen enough to know what he was running into and by the half it looked like Efes could really make a break for home with a big push.
They certainly got the individual contributions to deliver. Dario Saric, reigning FIBA Europe Young Player of the year, had 15 points and 14 rebounds in a stellar display, Thomas Heurtel had 25 points, and Nenad Krstic scored 17 points and grabbed 7 boards. It was a quiet night for 2015 first round NBA Draft prospect Cedi Osman so here’s his Head and Shoulders commercial instead.
The home club was getting the boost it needed to potentially hurt the underdogs but once Efes started to push things on offence, Karsiyaka were able to push back.
This was the question hanging over Karsiyaka heading into this season. The style they used to take down Fenerbahce 3-1 in the semi-finals is the type of small ball that could wear out a line-up. That’s how Fener reeled them in to force overtime twice but Efes realised pretty quickly that the underdogs had the energy to run all night. DJ Strawberry, son of star of Homer at the Bat Darryl for our American readers, had 16 points and 7 rebounds while Jon Diebler managed to score 19 despite not having his smartest evening in terms of shot selection. The big blow however was losing Kenny Gabriel, with the former Auburn Tiger fouling out in regulation.
Overtime swung on some loose D by Karsiyaka at the death but that was bad positioning not fatigue. Up until the final 15 seconds, this game hung right in the balance and on the whole we got 45 minutes that told us this could go the full seven. It’s not just that it was a squeaker, those happen all the time at the start of sweeps, it was how Karsiyaka stayed in this fight. They stood toe to toe with Efes when it mattered and didn’t look like a team the Istanbul club could just raise it against and blow by with the right break.
Thursday is big but a 2-0 lead for Efes, if it happens, is far from the end of the deal. This series is going to hinge on how Efes handle the intimidating atmosphere in Karsiyaka. The barn may be smaller but it is loud as hell and Dixon and company have shown that they can ride that crowd to some ludicrous performances. Any win Efes get on the road is huge and they may well need to pull at least