After Anadolu Efes Istanbul dominated Real Madrid 91-68 on Thursday to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs series, Coach Ergin Ataman’s squad joined some rare company. And it begs the question: Is Efes’s playoff start the best ever?
Efes is the fourth team to start a best-of-five series, the format that the EuroLeague adopted before the 2008-09 season, with back-to-back 20-point wins. The others were CSKA Moscow in 2010 and 2015 and FC Barcelona in 2014. Efes’s combined 50-point margin of victory in the first two games of this season’s series is the highest ever, eclipsing Barcelona’s 48 points over Galatasaray Istanbul. What’s more, Efes has now outscored Real in all eight quarters played, which is something that none of those three distinguished teams accomplished.
Not only has Efes made history of its own, but it has also dealt Real a pair of blows that the storied club has never endured before. Game 2 marked the first time in Real’s 479 EuroLeague games this century that it has lost back-to-back games by 20 points. Four of those losses have come this season and three of them were at the hands of Efes. The first was 83-108 in Round 32 in the Spanish capital, where Real will host Game 3 next week.
Another impressive note for Efes has been the style of play it has used to win. In Game 1, Efes controlled the paint with centers Sertac Sanli and Bryant Dunston and power forward Adrien Moerman combining for 34 points and 20 rebounds in 63 minutes and outperforming their counterparts. The guards did most of the damage in Game 2 with Vasilije Micic and Shane Larkin combining for 44 points and the team knocking own 12 of 20 three-point shots. The 60% accuracy from downtown is tied for sixth-best in playoff history.
It’s not all great news for Efes; Only one of those three proceeded to sweep its series. That was Barcelona against Galatasaray Istanbul, which won the third game 75-78 on the road. CSKA dropped Game 3 at Caja Laboral Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz 66-53 in 2010 and fell 86-85 in Game 3 at Panathinaikos Athens in 2015. Moreover, all three teams lost in the semifinals at the Final Four.
Those historic footnotes are just something else that Efes will be eager to overcome. This team has been on a mission since the 2019-20 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic with Efes firmly atop the standings. After a rough start this season, Efes has now won 16 of its last 19 games and appears to be peaking at just the right time.