Since Shane Larkin has joined Anadolu Efes Istanbul, the club has become a dominant force in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Indeed, Efes’s record since the start of Larkin’s first season in Istanbul is 81-37 for a 68.1% winning percentage. Injuries have caused Larkin to miss a handful of games over the years, but when the dynamic guard has played, Efes has gone 74-33 for a 69.6% winning percentage.
When Larkin is scoring well, Efes is even better. Over the last four years, Efes has gone 26-7 for a winning percentage of 78.8% when he has at least 20 points. On Thursday night in the Istanbul derby, Larkin had 25 points. It was his 14th such game of at least 25 points for Efes. The team has won 12 of those… for a winning percentage of 85.7%.
The only times in his career Larkin has scored at least 25 and lost were in the 2019 championship game, when his 29 points were not enough to topple CSKA Moscow. And in Round 6 the following season, when he scored 28 points in a losing effort at Panathinaikos OPAP Athens.
So when the third-quarter buzzer sounded in Istanbul and Fenerbahce led 67-56 and Larkin had scored 14, the hosts had reasons for optimism. However, so did Efes’s Coach Ataman.
"Starting in the second quarter, I saw that Larkin was in good shape," Ataman said in the post-game press conference. "And then in the last quarter, he played like a star."
In the game’s last 10 minutes, Larkin scored 11 points, dished 3 assists and grabbed 2 steals as Efes outscored Fenerbahce 17-33 to snatch the victory.
“We have Shane Larkin. He came back to play like a star," Ataman told the television cameras right after the game. "This victory is more than one victory for us because he showed, during the game also but especially in the fourth quarter, a big capacity and he's the key to open the Fenerbahce defense. We made a lot of turnovers tonight, especially Micic. We made incredible turnovers. We didn't play good basketball, but in the last quarter we were successful to make good defense and starting with Shane, we broke open the key of the Fenerbahce defense.”
The way Larkin and co. cracked the Fenerbahce defense was by making three-pointers. The visitors shot 5 for 20 from downtown in the first 30 minutes and were 4 for 7 in the fourth quarter. Larkin authored 4 of those in the game and 3 in the fourth quarter. And when the defense keyed in on his outside shooting, Larkin drove for the go-ahead layup in the final minute.
Perhaps there wasn’t anything Larkin did against Fenerbahce that EuroLeague fans hadn’t seen before, but the game was a reminder that when Larkin ‘played like a star,’ there isn’t much that can be done to stop him or Efes.