Anadolu Efes Ends 18-Year Playoff Drought

Anadolu Efes last reached the EuroLeague Final Four in 2001, and much has changed in the past 18 years. For one, the club was then known as Efes Pilsen, and the competition in which it navigated to the semifinals was in the lone season of the FIBA SuproLeague. 

The youngest member of the current Anadolu Efes roster, forward Metecan Birsen, was all of 5-going-on-6 in 2001. The oldest, center Bryant Dunston, was a high school freshman. Dunston, Birsen, and the rest of the Anadolu Efes squad have an opportunity to end the club’s lengthy postseason drought, which includes a winless spell in every appearance since 2005, when they open the 2019 EuroLeague Playoffs on April 17 against FC Barcelona Lassa. 

Efes advancing to the Final Four would certainly fit within the theme of the club’s 2018-19 season. Simply making the playoffs marks a noteworthy turnaround, one season after Efes finished at the bottom of the EuroLeague standings. 

The addition of Vasilije Micic, who played for 2018 Final Four-participant Zalgiris, injected life immediately into the club. Efes matched its win total for the entirety of the 2017-18 campaign (seven games) by Round 9 of 2018-19. 

For his efforts, the newcomer won November MVP, and as the 17th-highest scorer and No. 3 overall in assists, Micic has a strong case for All-EuroLeague. But he’s not the only addition who helped fuel this potentially historic campaign for Efes. 

Post presence Adrien Moerman is Efes’ leading scorer heading into the playoffs, averaging 12.3 points per game. He’s also pulled down a career-best 191 rebounds on the season, including eight in the Round 30 win over AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan. 

Moerman’s contributions in that win proved critical, most notably a buttery soft baby-hook late in the game that sealed the victory. The win was Efes’ fifth in the final six games and functioned as a microcosm of the club’s turnaround. Efes fell behind the playoff-aspiring visitors from Italy, before rallying from an 11-point halftime deficit. 

Efes was in no danger of losing its home-court advantage in Round 30, but closing the regular season on a strong note sends it into the postseason on a roll. Four of its five wins during the last six came against teams either in playoffs, or competing for a berth in the final round. 

Among them was quarterfinals opponent Barcelona Lassa, which Efes routed, 92-70. Moerman played a key role in the blowout of his former team, recording his second-highest outputs of the season for both points (22) and rebounds (11).  That win also sparked an impressive offensive eruption for the club during the past month-and-a-half, as Efes has scored into the 90s four times, and notched triple-digits the last two times out. 

Efes closed the regular season behind only CSKA Moscow and defending EuroLeague champion Real Madrid in scoring. That sets the stage for a likely theme of the quarterfinals. 

Barcelona Lassa allowed the second-fewest points during the regular season, trailing only first-place Fenerbahce Beko. The 92 points Efes put up in the Round 25 win matched the third-highest total Barca Lassa’s defense surrendered all season—but, in contrast, Efes was held to a season-low 65 in its Round 15 loss against coach Svetislav Pešić’s club. 

This stylistic chess match could determine if Efes makes more history in 2019, or if the club’s postseason heartache continues.

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