Game Notes: Galatasaray at Besiktas
Iverson & Co. barely fall in a last-minute thriller.
by Yusuf Atahan Erim
There was a lot of excitement heading into Sunday’s clash between visiting league leaders Galatasaray (11-2) and sixth place Besiktas (7-5). Galatasaray had just come off one of its best performances of the year, knocking off Fenerbahce from the top spot last week. Besiktas, meanwhile, has been reeling after last week’s blowout loss to 14th place Tofas and the suspension of Mire Chatman due to disciplinary reasons.
Despite the adversity facing the Black Eagles of Besiktas, head coach Burak Biyiktay viewed the game as a match that could help turn around the season. The Besiktas faithful definitely played their part, packing the Cola Turka Arena to the brim and creating one of the most intimidating home court advantages I have ever seen, making it difficult to hear myself think at times.
It was obvious that defense would be the name of the game, as both sides clamped down from the tip-off. Allen Iverson tried to get things going for the home side with some dribble penetration, but he was blanketed by Galatasaray guards. On the random instances that he could enter the paint, the Answer was either hacked hard or forced to turnover the ball. The Galatasaray Lions didn’t fare any better offensively, as they could not get anything going down low, either. But their outside shooting was the difference in an anemic 23-point first quarter, that concluded with the visitors up 9-14.
Both teams opened the second quarter more offensive minded. Iverson began to make his presence felt for Besiktas, taking control of offensive sets. He was able to find AJ Ogilvy down low for a dunk and create space for himself with a nice crossover, knocking down a short jumper to tie it up at 16-16. But two consecutive turnovers and a three by Lions’ guard Evren Büker ended a 7-0 run for the Besiktas. The Black Eagles were able to hang close and even jumped out in front 24-23 on a Bekir Yarangume three-ball, but sloppy ball-handling and bad finishing against the top team in the TBL was not a good sign of things to come. Galatasaray was able to capitalize on turnovers and convert fast break opportunities into points, ending the half up 30-34.
Galatasaray began to pour it on in the third, as Besiktas had problems containing forward Ermal Kurtoglu. When Kurtoglu wasn’t hurting the Eagles off the break or down low, he was finding the open man. Iverson tried to pick his team back up, however, the absence of Chatman definitely seemed to affect the Answer’s game as fatigue, resulting from extra minutes, became more visible. Galatasaray continued to extend their lead on easy fast break points to a game-high 16, at 35-51 with 5:00 to play in the third. Lions’ coach Oktay Mahmuti decided to use this lead as an oppurtunity to rest his starters, allowing Besiktas to creep back into the game, cutting the lead to 45-55 at the end of three.
Luckily, fans were able to stomach the lackluster play of the first three quarters and were treated to one of the most exciting fourth quarters I’ve seen in a while. Galatasaray opened the final period with a three by guard Haluk Yildirim and a basket by Kurtoglu to bring the lead back up to 15. But Besiktas would not quit and came storming back.
A very tired Iverson gathered his troops after a short TO and led Besiktas to six quick points, which included a sharp drive to the hoop and two crisp assists to Ogilvy and Michal Ignerski, bringing the crowd to a roar and forcing Galatasaray to take a TO. Momentum in the game had now clearly shifted in favor of Besiktas with Iverson taking advantage, slicing to the hoop for a pair and finding Mustafa Abi beyond the arc to cap off a 13-0 run.
With the lead now cut to 58-60 with three minutes left to play, Galatasaray called another TO as they tried to regroup. The Lions came off the break with a basket by Tutku Açik and then forced a Besiktas turnover which culminated in a Josh Shipp dunk, sending some of the home fans toward the exit doors with less than a minute remaining. But a quick basket by Mustafa Abi and two three-pointers by Ignerski tied the game up at 71 a piece with 25 seconds remaining.
Besiktas had several chances to put the game away in the closing seconds with four trips to the free-throw line. But, when the usually dependable Ignerski and Iverson went for a combined 0-4 from the stripe, the visitors were given a second chance. Galatasaray inbounded the ball to Açik, who was fouled by Iverson at half-court with 7 seconds remaining — on a controversial decision by Coach Biyiktay that would end up costing the game for Besiktas — as both free-throws were converted. The Eagles had one last attempt as Ignerski was hacked with 0.2 seconds remaining. But, the hero of the comeback missed the critical first free-throw and time expired following an intentional miss on the second attempt.
Following the game, groups of fans could be heard calling for the resignation of Biyiktay as the coach had a very somber look on his face heading toward the post-game press conference. Biyiktay stressed that his team played well against a stronger opponent and shied away from answering any questions about why he suspended Chatman. Lions’ coach Mahmuti, on the otherhand, was very happy on how his team was able to deal with the pressure of what he called “our toughest away game.” But he also added that he was not happy with the sloppy play that allowed Besiktas back into the game.
Galatasaray’s Ermal Kurtoglu led all scorers with 22 points, while Michal Ignerski scored a noteworthy 20 points for Besiktas. Iverson ended the game scoring 11 points, with 5 rebounds and 4 assists in 34 minutes of action.