Euroleague drew first blood on the NBA as Fenerbahce Ulker beat Boston Celtics 97-91 at the Ulker Sports Arena on Friday night.
Despite playing its fourth game in four days and coming off a loss to arch rival Galatasaray in Turkish Cup qualifying round group game last night, the Canaries started the game well and took an early led over Celtics before the first timeout by 18-8 just after half of the quarter was passed.
Fenerbahçe had no difficulty finding open shots while Bo McCalebb was tearing Celtics defence apart easily with his drives and pick and roll plays. Boston returned better from the timeout and closed the period up by one after Rajon Rondo’s three in the last position, 27-26.
Fenerbahce was again the better team to start the quarter. This time, Romain Sato was the shining player. The Central African forward finished the game with 24 points, 16 of them was recorded in the first half. Celtics were far away from responding the bosphorus side, and went in to locker room down by 10, 55-45.
Boston looked serious in the third, and didn’t allow easy points, even if they couldn’t make on the other rim. However, it lasted just few minutes. When David Andersen stole the ball and initiated the fast break for Bo McCalebb dunk, the yellow and blue od Istanbul enjoyed their biggest lead of the game with the score of 70-58 with 5:23 remaining in the third period.
Boston again trimmed the margin to six at the final minute, while the scoreboard showed 79-72 for Fenerbahçe entering the decisive 12 minutes.
Fenerbahce saved its advantage until the last minutes, getting into last 3.40 up by eight after a Oğuz Savaş’ layup.
Since then Jeff Green scored five consecutive points to cut the lead to three, with 1:19 remaining.
Once again, star of the night Bo McCalebb took responsibility and made one of his five assists Romain Sato, who had set his foot beyond the arc at the right corner. Sato stuck the dagger in Celtics’ heart and decided the game score, 97-91 for Fenerbahçe’s victory.
One of the anticipated anecdotes of the night was battle between one of the best point guards of the each competition, Bo McCalebb vs. Rajon Rondo. Nevertheless, Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn’t give much playing time to his stars as he declared before the game.
Macedonia’s national superstar, however, did his job as expected with 21 points, 8 of them in the last quarter.
“I just tried to play my game. My performance rises up against good players. It didn’t matter that being Rondo.” McCalebb said.
Brooklyn Nets draftee Bojan Bogdanovic also added 11 valuable points for his team. Jeff Green, who had to miss last season after being diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm was one of the few positive points for Celtics alongside rookie Jared Sullinger; both had 16.
Doc Rivers was unhappy about his team’s turnover numbers, mentioning: “If we play like this in April, we won’t make it to May.”
21 of the total 25 Celtics turnovers occurred in the first three quarters, where Fenerbahce achieved the necessary lead for the victory. He also praised Bo McCalebb’s and Romain Sato’s performances.
On the winning side, Simone Pianigiani said: “I think that was an important night for Turkish basketball and Fenerbahçe. We played against a legendary team.” He also added: “I’m not going to talk about basketball. There are a lot of different rules. Celtics is in preseason, not ready. We are not at satisfactory level either.”