The impressive victory against CSKA in Moscow (79-95), thanks to a 20-4 run in the overtime, showed that the Turks will fight tooth and nail to overcome their ups and downs and win the Euroleague title, as they are now heading to Piraeus to face Olympiacos on Thursday night.
Since Zeljko Obradovic’s arrival in 2013, Fenerbahce have become equal title contenders and one of the favourites to go all the way to the end.
After losing to the Russian team in last year’s championship game (96-101 in overtime), the club is determined to climb to the top of Europe this season, for the first time in its history.
However, the question is: Are they are capable of doing it? Based on their roster, the answer is definitely positive.
The Turks have a very talented and deep roster, with versatile players that can offer decent solutions on both ends of the floor and play in more than one positions.
Obradovic’s tactics mainly focus on exploiting Jan Vesely’s (10.6 points, 4.4 rebounds per game) and Ekpe Udoh’s (12.2 points and 5.7 boards per game) strength inside the paint, with their presence being vital for the team’s defensive effectiveness, due to their ability to protect the rim and grab rebounds.
Against CSKA on Friday, the American center was tremendous, with 17 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks, two assists and two steals, playing excellent defence, not only above the rim, but also against the Russian team’s guards.
Concurrently, the Czech power forward has created a dynamic duo with Udoh on both ends of the floor and that’s why the club did its best to keep both of them in the roster during the summer transfer period.
At the same time, Fenerbahce’s backcourt line is equally dangerous, with many players being able to make the difference in every game.
More specifically, Luigi Datome (42.4% from beyond the arc) can do everything offensively, despite his poor defensive performance that makes him a target for the opponents.
At the same time, Kostas Sloukas has become one of the team’s leaders, by scoring crucial points and dishing many assists in every game (12 points and five assists per game). For his part, Bobby Dixon plays at very high standards as well, by offering instant scoring (11.9 ppg), while his speed causes many problems to the opponents’ defensive stability.
Concurrently, Bogdan Bogdanovic is a game changer for the team, with his versatile skills helping the squad not only offensively (by scoring crucial three-pointers), but also on the rotation, as he lets Sloukas and Dixon retain their energy at high levels during the games.
Since the Serbian’s injury in October, and with James Nunnally having played very well only in the last few games, what we have seen is the two guards having more playing time, which has negatively affected their energy levels and (has) led to Fenerbahce losing consecutive matches in the Euroleague (9-5 record).
Another problem for the squad is that they cannot easily score points or dish out assists from the (low) post, as Udoh and Vesely are more productive through pick n roll situations.
That way, their playing style often becomes predictable, especially when they have a low percentage from beyond the arc, and that’s why they have suffered painful defeats against clubs that took advantage of all their weaknesses, like Baskonia, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Darussafaka and Panathinaikos.
In Moscow, though, things changed and the club showed their character, proving they should not be underestimated at all, due to their ups and downs.
Not only did they come back from a double-digit deficit, but they played such an excellent defence in the last part of the game that forced Dimitris Itoudis’ players to shoot only from the three-point range.
Moreover, they successfully executed their game plan, namely to prevent Milos Teodosic from scoring easy baskets and dishing out assists, with the Serbian missing many shots (6/17) and ending the game with nine turnovers.
That said, their target now is to prove that their emphatic victory against defending champions CSKA Moscow will be the beginning of a crucial winning streak that will put an end to the team’s ups and downs, as the season goes on.
And what a better way to do that than by beating Olympiacos on the road, in what will probably be a very tough and intense game between two clubs that are considered two of the favourites to dethrone the Muscovites.