Fenerbahce’s win tonight over Real Madrid wasn’t just about going 1-0 up in their playoff series, it was about the Istanbul club showing that they are now the power and everyone else better show some respect
Galway Bay is a damn good brewery and it’s just lost its head brewer. Chris Treanor is off to travel with his other half but on his way out he has left a whopper, a triple IPA called Change of the Guard. It’s the type of heavy hitting beer that isn’t going to be forgotten anytime soon. Tonight the Euroleague champions tried to brew their own triple fest in the third quarter but the ascendant giants of European basketball would not yield.
Scrappy is a kind word to describe the opening exchanges between Real and Fener tonight. Removing the s would be a more accurate description of the opening 5 minutes which saw neither side do much in a 4-4 squabble. Once things opened up, we got an out and out bruiser. Fenerbahce, by switching to a smaller line up, actually made it a more physical game by opening up the floor and allowing everybody to throw whatever they liked.
The result was a 20 minute half of ball that felt draining just watching it and it had to feel like the full 40 for the players. This was clean but really physical ball, everybody was happy to have a straight up ruck. This wasn’t some cheap shot fest, it was a like a bunch of dudes who like to get down and throw heavy shots ended up in the same barn and decided to just lay into each other. At the half it was hard to know what to make of what had just gone down. Bobby Dixon and Bogdan Bogdanovic had their big run, Fener looked good for their double digit lead, yet it didn’t seem like it would take a whole lot to pressure them. Fener were there to be attacked or, just as plausibly, to rip the visitors a new one in the third.
Out stepped the champions in the second half and they started throwing the big shots. Well, they were always throwing them but this time they were landing. Real’s game was a whole lot smarter in the third but you couldn’t help but think the home side was blinking. I wouldn’t trade places with Obradovic’s cardiologist at the best of times but he looked oddly calm as his players lost all control of the tempo. This was a Fener side falling down and it needed something to change fast.
The folks in Istanbul should probably be thankful that Ekpe Udoh is lethal from 1 mm out. Offensively Udoh is terribly predictable but effective when used right and, barely, more often than not he was in this one. Defensively he was a silent monster. The work of the man tasked with being Jan Vesely for the rest of the season was critical to Gustavo Ayon not getting a shot off until inside the final two minutes of the game. Kostas Sloukas remembered it was time for him to enter playoff mode and then Bogdanovic did his sweep up job to close it out. Fener won but it was the way they won that sent a message.
When Fenerbahce screwed up they didn’t need some heroic rally to get out of trouble, they just needed a bunch of guys who happen to be really good at basketball to realise that it’s time to stop being stupid. That’s the most boring aspect of a championship side, of a giant, but one of the crucial ones. It’s when you realise that you outgun the other guy and it’s time to lean on blunt force trauma.
On Tuesday it probably took Fener a little too long to realise it for comfort. On Thursday, it could be the difference between 2-0 and 1-1.