In the game’s 38th minute, Alba Berlin’s Ali Traore floated one in from six feet to put the Germans ahead of Anadolu Efes 83-81. Down two on the road with the clock hanging around the two-minute mark, the team that we’d all been waiting on to fail had its chance.
Except for Jordan Farmar didn’t see it that way. The way it happened was this: opposite end, Farmar dribbles, steps back, buries the three with a hand in his face. Turks go up, Germans sit down.
Then after DaShaun Wood missed a three of his own for Berlin, Kerem Tunceri scooped up the miss and pushed it ahead for some possible insurance points. Farmar streaked up the right side of the floor and caught it in stride, nothing between him and two points but the square on the backboard and a defender inching his way.
Yet instead of soaring toward the rim or kissing something daintily off the glass, Farmar controlled his dribble and made a U-turn. Top of the key, eyes darting all around, waiting for his teammates to join him after their journeys from the defensive end.
Once the troops had fallen back into place and 13 more seconds had vacated the clock, Farmar saw his opening and went hurdling toward the bucket. Byars had little choice but to foul him, so Farmar had little choice but to step to the line and ice them both. His eighth and ninth conversions of the day in as many attempts.
Semih Erden (12 points, 8 rebounds) turned an offensive rebound into Efes’ next two points and then swatted one of Traore’s famous lefty hooks that would have pulled Berlin to within three.
Two more free throws from Farmar—his 10th and 11th of 10 and 11—made it a two-possession game for good with under 10 seconds left and Anadolu Efes won 91-86, walking off the court winners of eight of nine and a firm second place in Group E. For once, Istanbul’s other, other, other club hadn’t taken the time to live down to their reputation as a disheveled tease, or to walk through disappointment’s doorway when they see so much as a sliver of light on the other side.
At last, it seems as though Farmar, Erden and Jamon Lucas are the ones poised to see this through, to play with the patience and furious togetherness that coach Oktay Mahmuti demands.
And with a Real Madrid loss Thursday to Zalgiris, Efes could even slide into Group E’s top spot, since their head-to-head victory against the Spaniards gives the Turks the tiebreak.
What does all that mean for this week’s power rankings? And what about Barcelona, who have won seven straight? Or the defending champs, Olympiacos, who have won their last five?
Away we go…