Anadolu Efes and Pinar Karsiyaka served up another absolute epic in Istanbul on Thursday evening and it was the visitors who pulled it out in ridiculously dramatic style 85-86 to tie it up at 1-1 as the series moves to Karsiyaka on Sunday
Efes have proven without doubt that they are not as foolish as Fenerbahce in this series. Where Fener kept on keeping on keeping on, with no adjustments to deal with Karsiyaka’s up tempo small ball, Efes have proven to be far smarter at trying to disrupt the way the club from the suburbs of Izmir plays. Pressuring the inbounds pass may be shut-down 101 but it’s being used creatively and selectively by Duda Ivkovic’s side. At the end of the first quarter Karsiyaka had an inbounds opportunity on their own baseline with a shot at taking the lead. Efes brought enough pressure that it forced Bobby Dixon to come back down to collect and create the shot himself, having clearly been seeking to only take over in the half-court. Efes were able to crowd the lane and Karsiyaka didn’t get a shot off.
Yet for all their smarter play, Efes still couldn’t slow Karsiyaka with consistency. Dixon’s pull-up jumpers can be seen a mile off but Efes still had to respect the alternative because of the outside threat of Jon Diebler. Then there was the raw slashing. Juan Palacios brought the power but it was Senturk who had the most stylish play of the first half, stripping, dunking, and then throwing the ball away to delay a quick Efes inbounds play.
It was obvious from Game 1 that Karsiyaka have the energy to keep their ridiculous pace up for the full 40 and beyond. By the back end of the third they had stretched into a 10 point lead but Efes had the options to claw them back. Matt Janning and Thomas Heurtel were working it from the outside while Dario Saric and Stephane Lasme looked to match Karsiyaka’s pace inside. Even Nenad Krstic, looking the healthiest he has been in years, was far from the statue Efes may have feared could have slowed them. With the game entering the business end of proceedings, it was the Efes defence that prevented another kick on by the visitors.
Karsiyaka performs surprisingly well on the offensive glass for a small line-up but Efes didn’t panic when a four-chance opportunity fell KSK’s way and eventually got possession back by stuffing a Dixon drive. Offensively Karsiyaka started slipping, Palacios and DJ Strawberry combined for 1 of 4 from the line after the game had dipped below the 2 minute mark and then Diebler stepped out of bounds while driving to almost certainly draw a foul from Cedi Osman. Karsiyaka finally caught a break when Kenny Gabriel made a putback off a badly chosen attempted three but despite drawing the foul he failed to make the free throw. That gave Efes enough room to keep pushing this beyond a single possession game from the line.
Only it never ends that simply with these guys. Heurtel went 1 of 2 at the line, Efes led by 3 with 18 to go, Dixon made another pull-up three to tie it up and then stole the inbounds pass. Palacios drew the foul, this time he finally made 1 from the line, missing the first but getting a fortunate bounce on the second. Karsiyaka had recovered the lead having done all in their power to give it up for good. Krstic missed the jumper for the win and Karsiyaka were going home tied at 1-1 in the finals.