Anadolu Efes Istanbul was up to the ultimate challenge in 2021-22 as it successfully defended its Turkish Airlines EuroLeague crown. Here’s a look back at Efes’s special season.
Season in review: Anadolu Efes Istanbul
This is a no-brainer. Can there be a bigger win than the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game? Efes joined some rare company when it outlasted Real Madrid 57-58 in Belgrade to successfully defend the EuroLeague crown. Vasilije Micic and Tibor Pleiss did the heavy lifting as the former scored 23 points and the latter tallied 19 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks to lead Efes. Best known for its offensive prowess, Efes turned to its defense to limit Real and march to the championship.
Efes set a EuroLeague record with 22 three-pointers made in a 109-77 rout of Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv in Round 27. It missed only 12 shots from downtown and its three-point accuracy of 64.7% was a club record. Five players made multiple three in that game: Adrien Moerman (5 of 7), Vasilije Micic (4 of 5), Shane Larkin (4 of 6), James Anderson (3 of 3) and Elijah Bryant (2 of 2). Efes tallied 28 assists, which were a season-high and the second-most in club history. It finished with 109 points, the most it has scored in a home game this century, and a performance index rating of 149, which was the second-best ever.
New defensive standards
While the focus on Efes’s greatness has surrounded its scoring prowess, Coach Ataman’s charges proved whenever needed that they have the defensive chops to get the job done. And never was that more true than in the playoffs. Efes held AX Armani Exchange Milan to 48 points on the road in Game 1 of their playoff series and held the opponents to an average of 64.0 points in that phase. Every other team averaged at least 70 in the playoffs. What’s more, the Efes defense held Milan to the lowest three-point shooting (29.7%) and true shooting (39.6%) percentages of any playoff team. It was the best defensive showing in a playoff series in terms of points allowed since 2014 and the best in opponents’ true shooting since 2013! Efes needed that defense against Real Madrid once again in the championship game and the champs proved they can win with offense and defense.
En route to the championship, Efes had an elite attack on display with several players who flirted with the famed 50-40-90 shooting club. James Anderson came up short, but only because the swingman didn’t shoot the ball enough. He made 54.5% of his two-pointers, 45.5% of his threes and shot 90.9% from the foul line, but only attempted 22 three-pointers and 11 foul shots. A single missed free throw kept Tibor Pleiss from becoming the tallest member of the 50-40-90 club. He made 59.8% of his twos, 44.2% of his threes and 89.1% of his foul shots. Shane Larkin was knocking on the door at the end of the regular season when he shot 53.2%, 39.9% and 91.9%, but those numbers dipped in the playoffs and at the Final Four to finish at 51.2%, 38.2% and 89.8%.