Tuğçe Candemir

Photo Credit: Yunus Emre Kartal

Turkish Basketball Super League (BSL) is one of the most competitive basketball leagues in Europe. After a long-lasting regular season, the playoffs are finally here. The top eight teams of the league took their places in the playoffs and the fierce race started with the quarter-finals: Türk Telekom, Pınar Karşıyaka, Fenerbahçe Beko and Anadolu Efes made it to the semi-finals. Four teams play the best-of-five series and winners advance to the finals. Let’s dive deep into the playoffs in more detail.
Is Efes Down for One Last Dance & Will Fenerbahçe Win the Back-to-Back Champions Title?

After a EuroLeague season that did not go as expected in Europe, it was a matter of curiosity whether Anadolu Efes could make a comeback in the playoffs. On the other hand, Fenerbahçe, the BSL regular season runner-up, became one of the favorites for the finals, particularly as players like Nigel Hayes-Davis, Dyshawn Pierre and Carsen Edwards began to assume important roles in the team especially during the latter part of the season.

The matchup of the two EuroLeague teams did not go as an expected basketball spectacle in the first game. Both Efes and Fenerbahçe started the game evenly in the first quarter, but things took a turn for the worse thereafter. Fenerbahçe’s dominance in the paint proved to be the most crucial factor shaping the course of the game and Efes also struggled with their outside shooting. The decision of coach Ergin Ataman, due to the foreign player rule in the Turkish League, to utilize Ante Zizic and Furkan Haltalı as pivots created issues for Efes. While Furkan Haltalı displayed physicality and made an impact in rebounds and screens, he alone wasn’t sufficient in the low post. Ergin Ataman’s insistence on utilizing Ante Zizic throughout the season, including EuroLeague games, caused a disadvantage and emerged as one of the key factors contributing to Efes’ defeat. This decision was questionable considering his limited effectiveness in transition offenses and rebound contributions in the matchup. Accompanied by Ergin Ataman’s decision to bench Shane Larkin, Will Clyburn and Elijah Bryant, the gap widened even further with the choice to play with an entirely young and domestic lineup. This move of the coach stands as one of the most significant factors contributing to Efes’ defeat with 42-point margin. While we may not know whether Ergin Ataman made this move to send a message to his players, it was undoubtedly effective in reminding the team of their existing potential for the upcoming game. If it was indeed a message, it is accurate to say that it worked.

In Fenerbahçe, seven players reached double digits. While Jonathan Motley and Nigel Hayes-Davis stood out as the top scorers on the stats, Dyshawn Pierre made a difference both defensively and offensively. Fenerbahçe got contributions from off the bench and continued its rotation-based game style with bench contributions in this game as well. Samet Erdi Geyik contributed with 12 points and 8 rebounds off the bench. Following this historic defeat, there was a curiosity about how Efes would react in the second game, since Fenerbahçe achieved with the highest point margin against Efes in the club’s history. However, in the second game, Efes was on the court for a comeback. 
The major change for the second game was Ergin Ataman’s decision of the inclusion of Amath M’Baye and Tibor Pleiss in the roster. With this strategy, the interior battle and physicality that Anadolu Efes failed to establish in the first game were achieved. Fenerbahçe started the game with the same tempo as in the first quarter, but Efes began closing the gap starting from the second quarter. Here, the aggressive defense implemented by Efes, coupled with the impact of Amath M’Baye, kept Fenerbahçe away from their game plan. As a result, Efes staged a comeback in the series. Additionally, the impactful performance of Will Clyburn, who was ineffective in the first game, proved to be one of the determining factors in the outcome. Clyburn concluded the game with a remarkable double-double of 35 points and 10 rebounds, with his last second game-winning shot sealing the victory. 
Efes took the lead in the second half and managed to maintain their advantage on the scoreboard until the final moments of the game. However, in the fourth quarter, Tarık Biberovic, coming off the bench from Fenerbahçe, became the key player with his three-point contribution. As a result, Fenerbahçe prevented Efes from extending the lead in the final quarter. With just four seconds left on the clock, Nigel Hayes-Davis stole the ball while Efes was inbound, putting Fenerbahçe ahead in the final four seconds of the game. However, Will Clyburn was there for a surprise, securing the victory for his team with a last second three-point shot, so Efes tied up the series.
In the third game, both teams displayed a different gameplan compared to the previous two games. Efes focused more on attacking the basket and playing on Johnathan Motley, while Fenerbahçe preferred outside shooting. They scored a total of 45 points from three-pointers throughout three quarters. Individual performances stood out more compared to team-oriented gameplays during the game. For example, Scottie Willbekin and Nigel Hayes-Davis had notable performances. However, the biggest drawback for Fenerbahçe in the game was Marko Guduric’s inability to score and the team’s failure to effectively play in the paint with Motley. With the defensive pressure from Efes, Fenerbahçe preferred to attack the basket with their guards or score through three-pointers instead of trying to bring the ball to Motley in the low post for scoring. In the final quarter, Fenerbahçe’s three-pointer plan failed. Additionally, taking advantage of Fenerbahçe’s foul problem, Efes managed to take the series to 2-1.
For Fenerbahçe, both in the fourth game and throughout the series, the most challenging aspect was the lack of a creative playmaker. In the fourth game, Marko Guduric’s turnovers had a negative impact and they couldn’t get enough contribution from their guards in terms of outside shooting. Nigel Hayes-Davis and Dyshawn Pierre individually performed well throughout the series, but their performances alone weren’t enough as they didn’t combine with the creative contributions from the guards throughout the entire game. Jonathan Motley had an advantage against Ante Zizic in the first game but couldn’t show the necessary reaction to Tibor Pleiss. While Anadolu Efes scored 34 points in the paint throughout the game, Fenerbahçe managed 22 points. Could there have been a different scenario in the paint for Fenerbahçe if they had a more impactful pivot rotation and Tonye Jekiri in the lineup? Maybe. However, in the end, it was Anadolu Efes who secured the ticket to the finals.
Intense Matchup between Türk Telekom and Karşıyaka
The matchup between Karşıyaka, one of the most prominent offensive teams in the league, and Türk Telekom, who dominated the season, was another battle in the semi-finals. EuroCup runner-up Türk Telekom has started the season with the motto “We have a reason” and they proved that they had a reason with 25 wins throughout the regular season and a season that ended up with the leader title after 29 years in the club’s history. Considering the fact that the team was built from scratch, this achievement during the regular season made Telekom one of the favorites in the finals. On the other hand, Karşıyaka has been the highest-scoring team of the season. As a result, the matchup between these two teams, like the other playoff matchups, has the potential to be filled with surprise outcomes. 
During the regular season, Türk Telekom won both games against Karşıyaka. Therefore, there was a curiosity about how the matchup would unfold since Telekom applied solid defense against the league’s highest-scoring team in both regular season games and secured two victories. 
In the first game of the playoff series, the MVP of the Turkish Basketball League Tyrique Jones stood out for Türk Telekom with 30 PIR and 25 points, while Jerian Grant contributed with 18 points and Axel Bouteille with 17 points. For Karşıyaka, Braian Angola was the leading scorer with 22 points and Angel Delgado made significant rebound contributions with high efficiency. Since the first game was played at Türk Telekom’s homecourt, both teams showcased their quality, exchanging the lead 30 times throughout the game. The advantage for Telekom in securing the win came from coach Erdem Can’s balanced player rotation, which provided a contribution of 35 points from the bench. Karşıyaka, on the other hand, received 20 points from their bench players. Despite Telekom’s victory, there were defensive vulnerabilities that could cause a potential problem in the upcoming games. Ultimately, Türk Telekom made fewer mistakes in the final period, securing a 1-0 advantage in the series.
Karşıyaka dominated the game in terms of scoring for a significant portion of the second game and built a lead of up to 17 points in the second quarter. In the first half Türk Telekom couldn’t establish a defensive dominance, which allowed Karşıyaka to be more effective in their offensive plays. Similar to the first game, Angel Delgado stood out as the key player and Braian Angola played with a PIR of 21 and scored 18 points. Türk Telekom’s three-point shooting percentage remained lower compared to the previous game. In the fourth quarter, Türk Telekom managed to catch up to Karşıyaka, but Karşıyaka remained competitive throughout the game, particularly in the final quarter, Türk Telekom kept both Tyrique Jones and Semih Erden, the two centers, on the court together to find a solution for Karşıyaka’s scoring. Karşıyaka tied up the series and as a result, Türk Telekom, who had remained undefeated against any team on their homecourt throughout the season, suffered their first defeat at the homecourt against Karşıyaka.
In the third game of the series, just like the previous two games, there was a fierce competition. It was a true playoff game with fast breaks and aggressive play right from the start. The first half of the game was characterized by the bigs being more active, the guards struggling to find scoring opportunities, and both teams having a limited rotation of guards. Unlike the first two games, the first half of the third game had a low scoring affair. This was due to Türk Telekom’s solid defense against Karşıyaka’s guards and Telekom’s limited penetration into the paint. Delgado’s performance was crucial for Karşıyaka in the first half as he dominated the paint and scored 15 points in the paint. Both teams struggled to find mismatches. The most challenging part of the game for Türk Telekom was Tyrique Jones getting into foul trouble early on. In the critical moments of the final quarter Jones fouled out, and it created a significant problem for Türk Telekom in the paint. Karşıyaka found the three-point contributions they were looking for throughout the game in the final quarter. The last three minutes of the game were highly crucial, as Karşıyaka took the lead with two successful three-pointers by Kenan Sipahi. His timely three-pointers gave Karşıyaka the advantage in the game. While the lead was 8 points, free throws and Nate Sestina’s threes brought the deficit to just one point, but it wasn’t enough for Türk Telekom. Kenan Sipahi’s three-pointers and the absence of Tyrique Jones in the paint led to Telekom’s defeat, allowing Karşıyaka to break the tie with a win and making the series 2-1.
In the fourth game, Türk Telekom found the solution of starting with Semih Erden to prevent Tyrique Jones, who had faced a foul problem and was sidelined in the previous game’s final period, from encountering a similar issue in this game. Türk Telekom dominated the first quarter, displaying excellent defense and Karşıyaka struggled to find success in their outside shooting, going 0/3 from three-point range. In the second quarter, Karşıyaka brought in their guards, which helped them to find better shot accuracy and allowed them to make a comeback. Throughout the game, one of Telekom’s significant strategies was coach Erdem Can’s decision to play with both Tyrique Jones and Semih Erden, the two bigs, together for a significant portion of the game. This allowed Telekom to be effective, particularly with their aggressive defense in the first quarter. However, as the second quarter progressed, Karşıyaka responded with their shooters finding score from beyond the arc, while Telekom struggled to react with their outside shooting. One of the notable performances of the game was Tyrique Jones’. Jones ended up the game with a PIR of 34. However, apart from Jerian Grant, Telekom’s guards’ inability to score was one of the key reasons for their defeat. In Karşıyaka, Angel Delgado’s impactful play in the paint and Vitto Brown’s contributions in rebounding were crucial. Delgado and Errick McCollum both finished with a PIR of 24. While the game had its ups and downs in the first half (with Telekom dominating the first quarter and Karşıyaka taking control in the second), the second half was highly contested, with a high-paced battle that came down to the final possession.
Looking at the series as a whole, in the initial games of the matchup, Karşıyaka struggled to find contributions from their guards, relying more on their bigs for scoring. However, in the later games, they also benefited from their guards and power forwards, which played a significant role in Karşıyaka’s victory. Angel Delgado’s unstoppable play in the paint, as well as the contributions from their guards and forwards, were influential factors in Karşıyaka’s success. As a result, Karşıyaka secured their ticket to the finals.
Championship Showdown: Anadolu Efes and Karşıyaka Compete in the Finals
After the regular season came to an end, some believed that the league leader Türk Telekom would undoubtedly secure a spot in the finals, while others were convinced that Fenerbahçe would be one of the finalists. Some had faith in Anadolu Efes making a comeback, while others were certain that Karşıyaka, a prominent offensive team, would reach the finals. As with every year, the playoffs were filled with surprises. Despite all the predictions and opinions, the final matchup is finally here.

It comes as no surprise that the final games will be highly competitive, considering the performances of both Anadolu Efes and Pınar Karşıyaka, particularly in the semis. The last time these two teams faced each other in a final was in 2015, where Karşıyaka emerged as the champions. During the regular season, Karşıyaka won two games against Efes. In the game in Izmir, Karşıyaka scored 54 points in the paint alone, and in the game in Istanbul, they grabbed 22 offensive rebounds. Considering the regular season matchups, Karşıyaka’s dominance in offensive rebounds disrupted Efes’ defensive balance. The game in Istanbul went into overtime and ended with a 111-112 scoreline. In the regular season matchups with Efes, Mindaugas Kuzminskas was one of the key players. However, coach Ufuk Sarıca did not include him in the lineup during the quarter-finals and semi-finals. It is uncertain whether Sarıca will include Kuzminskas in the lineup for the final games.

There is no doubt that we will witness an exciting BSL season finale. The first game of the series will be played on Tuesday at 19:00 Central Europe Time (CET) at Sinan Erdem Sports Hall in Istanbul.