Anadolu Efes Istanbul has won back-to-back games since it appointed Tomislav Mijatovic as head coach.
Coach Mijatovic has changed Efes's mentality
After suffering its worst loss of the season, a 26-point beatdown at Zalgiris Kaunas in Round 24, Anadolu Efes Istanbul made a change at the head of its bench and promoted assistant coach Tomislav Mijatovic to man the sidelines. In the two games since, Efes has defeated EA7 Emporio Armani Milan 79-73 and Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv 105-91 to quickly repair its hopes of reaching the Play-In Showdown.
Mijatovic is well-known at Efes. He joined the team as an assistant coach and worked under some of the best coaches in Europe, including Dusan Ivkovic, Velimir Perasovic, Oktay Mahmuti and Ergin Ataman. A basketball junkie, he seemed to be comfortable in his assistant coaching role but when Efes parted ways with Erdem Cam, it was his time to shine.
Having part of the core of players who won back-to-back Turkish Airlines EuroLeague championships has helped Mijatovic hit the ground running. Efes is a different team now, but Shane Larkin, Rodrigue Beaubois, Elijah Bryant, Erten Gazi and Tibor Pleiss won the EuroLeague with the club and are still around. One of the first things that Coach Mijatovic did was to lean on these players.
It has shown right away. In the last two games, Larkin has averaged 20.5 points on 7-of-12 two-point shooting and 7-of-14 on threes plus 6.0 assists for a PIR of 28.0, an increase over his season averages (17.6 ppg., 5.3 apg., 20.8 PIR). Rodrigue Beaubois had 20 points against Maccabi, Gazi has started both games as his team's on-the-ball defensive stopper, Pleiss has been worth 14.5 points and a PIR of 14.5, and Bryant is playing a key role in leading the team's second unit.
Once roles were well-defined, other players stepped up. Will Clyburn buried back-to-back three-pointers in crunch time against Milan and had 10 points and 7 rebounds against Maccabi. In that game, Ercan Osmani had a career-best night with 13 points and 7 rebounds for a PIR of 20. Before Round 26, he had averaged 1.8 points and 1.8 rebounds for a PIR of 1.0 this season. Derek Willis and Tyrique Jones have also been important pieces of the puzzle, providing physicality and great intensity.
"The guys showed that we have that Efes character in us," Mijatovic said after beating Maccabi. "They fought for 40 minutes against a team that never really gives up, they keep coming. The guys really did an amazing job. Our coaches did an amazing job preparing the game and our fans showed up, made us feel very comfortable. It was a collective team win. I am really happy and thankful to everybody who participated and did this wonderful job."
Efes will need that character in the remaining eight regular season games. It is two wins behind Maccabi for 10th place, the last spot that leads to the Play-In Showdown. Efes now has a 13-13 record and owns the tie-break advantage against the Israeli champs. Efes has regrouped and will next have a chance to prove itself at one of the toughest courts in Europe, as it plays against Partizan Mozzart Bet Belgrade at Stark Arena in Round 27.