Fenerbahce never let the crowd get to them and, small sample size warning, it looks like Zeljko Obradovic has righted the ship according to Emmet Ryan
Given I over-reacted in game, it’s only fair that I over-react to the game. Fenerbahce really looked smart across large parts of this game and got the job done in the Oaka. There was, of course, that big chunk of basketball where they were terrible so it’s best to start addressing this game with what went wrong then jumping back and forward again.
The mental boost
At half-time the turning point of this clash looked clear. Having reeked through the opening few minutes, Panathinaikos looked slow and unable to really get anything going outside of hoping Nick Calathes could beat Fenerbahce by himself. One block. It took one Chris Singleton block to wake up this PAO side and from there to the half they utterly dominated the visitors. A 9-0 run to close the first quarter was big but it was the switch-up in the second quarter looked like it could prove decisive.
Nikos Pappas and, to a lesser degree, KC Rivers, just ran Fenerbahce into the ground in the second frame. Fenerbahce were leaning far too much on three pointers and were struggling to penetrate. Allowing for all of the usual questions about home friendly refs, if you aren’t getting inside at all you aren’t getting to the line. Fenerbahce’s first free throws came with 26 seconds left in the half and Jan Vesely missed both. After the Singleton block Panathinaikos ripped off a 27-7 run to lay the foundations for what looked like a decisive 42-28 lead at the half.
Back to the start
This game started out so nervy and it suited Fenerbahce more. There were a lot of turnovers, so many, and while Fener stumbled more as the half wore on it was the hosts who were making all kinds of facepalming errors early. The decision by Zoc to keep Gigi Datome on the floor after picking up two early fouls showed his desire to set a deliberate pace early. It was Sloukas, Bogdanovic, Datome, Kalinic, and Vesely early on, and Zoc wanted to force that for a long stint. It was quite effective for a while as Fenerbahce controlled the pace. They wanted a slow game with, what looked, like the option to speed it up on their terms. Threes were going in and lobs to Jan Vesely kept things somewhat interesting. Those lobs however quickly became predictable, enabling PAO’s ascent.
What jumped out the most about Fenerbahce’s comeback was the patience. At no stage did it look like they saw the margin, at one stage 16 points, as too much to overcome. The visitors didn’t rush, they just went about their business devouring the gap. They needed to own their own glass more, so they just did. They needed to work the interior more, so they just did. A Bogdanovic lay-up late in the third demonstrated that about as well as anything else. As Bogdanovic’s shot arced in, both Vesely and Ekpe Udoh were there ready for the tip in ahead of an Panathinaikos defender.
Fenerbahce had taken charge of the tempo once more and even their predictable moves seemed tough to defend. Midway through the final quarter, Bobby Dixon was subbed in as Fener were about to inbound at the PAO end. There was zero doubt the call was for Dixon to go for the three, yet he still had no trouble getting in position to drain it. Fenerbahce were in crush mode on defence with Panathinaikos unable to get anything going, tallying a meagre 16 second half points.
Bogdan Bogdanovic is really good at basketball
The Fener with Bogdan vs Fener without Bogdan numbers were well touted before this game. With him, they went 12-5 in the regular season. Without, 6-7. This game showed why he’s just so important as there was confidence and awareness, cleverly knowing when to call for a break when he needed one. For once, it’s easy just to let the numbers do the talking: 23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals.
So what’s next?
Ahead of this series I called a 3-1 win for Fenerbahce and I’m seriously starting to reconsider that 1 already. An overpacked Oaka and a huge half-time lead weren’t enough to stop Fener when the visitors just plain decided to stop messing around. Xavi Pascual is a smart defensive operator but he had no means to stop the Fenerbache comeback. That’s not promising, especially with Fenerbahce showing what they can do when they turn it up defensively.