The Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul will host a must-watch game for basketball fans on Friday evening, the first meeting between Anadolu Efes and Barcelona since their EuroLeague Final encounter in May, when the Turkish team won its first-ever EuroLeague trophy.
Just like last year, Efes started the season very badly (they were 2-6 in the EuroLeague at the start of November), but now they are on an 8 game winning streak in all competitions and are slowly starting to look like the team that dominated Europe in the past 2 seasons. Ergin Ataman has a spectacular backcourt at his disposal with Micic, Larkin and Simon and it’s always a pleasure to watch Efes play when they are at full strength. It will also be the first time Sertac Sanli will play against his former team, the Turkish center being the only important piece that Efes lost from last season.
On the other side, Barcelona is once again one of the most well-coached teams. Even if they score a lot (they rank 1st in scoring so far in the EuroLeague), Barca’s game is not particularly fun to watch, but they are very disciplined and have one of the best defences too in the league. It’s no surprise that the team coached by Sarunas Jasikevicius shares first place in the standings with arch-rivals Real Madrid in both EuroLeague and Spanish ACB. They will lack some important pieces though against Efes: starting point guard Nick Calathes and Cory Higgins, maybe the best shooting guard in Europe, will miss tomorrow’s game.
We still have a lot of games until May, but these two teams are certainly strong Final Four contenders and it won’t be a surprise if they will meet again in the Final. The Catalans will be looking to take revenge for the loss suffered in last season’s Final but given their absences and the home-court advantage of Efes, I believe the Turkish team is slightly favourite to win.