|2016-17 Team Profile: Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Anadolu Efes Istanbul had an up-and-down 2015-16 Turkish Airlines Euroleague campaign, one that featured several winning and losing runs. Efes won its first two games to start the regular season, but then lost the next three. However, led by the playmaking of Thomas Heurtel and shooting of Jon Diebler, Efes still managed to claim a spot in the Top 16 with two regular season games to spare. Three straight wins to end the regular season and a dramatic Top 16-openning win against Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade on a Dario Saric game-winner put the team seemingly in a good position, but Efes went on to win only two of the next eight games and dig itself a deep hole. Efes did end up finishing the Top 16 in a strong fashion with a 7-7 record, but Efes was left wanting more as it missed out on the playoffs due to a lost tiebreaker with Crvena Zvezda.
This storied Turkish club was founded in 1976 and needed just three years to start collecting titles. Efes won its first Turkish League trophy in 1979 and made it to the Euroleague quarterfinals group stage in the 1979-80 season. Two more Turkish League titles came in 1983 and 1984, but Efes did not become a dominant club and a European contender until the 1990s, when it went on a glorious run and took the Turkish crown in five of six seasons through 1997 under the tutelage of head coach Aydin Ors. That's when Efes also put Turkey on the continental basketball map for good. In 1993, Larry Richard, Petar Naumoski and Ufuk Sarica took Efes to the Saporta Cup final, but Aris Thessaloniki escaped with a narrow win as Naumoski missed a close shot in the final seconds that would have forced overtime. In 1996, however, Efes did become the first Turkish team to win a European title when Naumoski and Sarica joined forces with the late Conrad McRae and a young Mirsad Turkcan to lead Efes to the Korac Cup crown by downing Olimpia Milano in the finals on point difference. Efes soon after became a Euroleague regular and in 2000 the club achieved another first among Turkish teams by making the Final Four, a milestone it repeated in the 2001 SuproLeague with Hedo Turkoglu, Mehmet Okur, Predrag Drobnjak, Ibrahim Kutluay and Damir Mulaomerovic leading the way. Efes came within one shot of reaching the 2004 Final Four too, but was denied by Skipper Bologna's Gianluca Basile. Efes was back dominating domestically during that span, winning four consecutive Turkish championships from 2002 through 2005. The club went on to reach the Euroleague quarterfinals in 2005 and 2006 and lifted Turkish Cup trophies in 2006 and 2007. Efes did even better in 2009 by winning the Turkish League and Cup double, but had to wait until 2015 to lift another trophy – the Turkish Cup after beating archrival Fenerbahce in the final. Efes last made the Euroleague playoffs in 2013, but in a classic series lost to eventual champion Olympiacos Piraeus in maximum five games. Last season Efes was again close to lifting trophies as it won the Turkish League regular season and swept Gaziantep and Darussafaka in the first two playoff rounds before getting beat 4-2 in the best-of-seven final series against Fenerbahce.
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