It was no surprise that the duel between Partizan NIS Belgrade and Darussafaka Tefken Istanbul turned into a low-scoring game. Both had demonstrated all season long that they are among the best defensive teams in the 7DAYS EuroCup, and that proved to be the case once again on Wednesday at Aleksandar Nikolic Hall in Belgrade. The hosts prevailed and won by 12 points, 69-57, mainly because they took their defensive efficiency to the next level.
As Partizan's head coach admitted, "We are a team that if we want to achieve something, we need to play defense. We made mistakes, but when you play team defense, it is easier."
And it was. Partizan had a so-so game on offense, shooting under 50% on two-pointers and hitting just 7 of 28 tries from behind the arc. Such a statline, in most cases, should lead to a loss.
"We didn't play the perfect game," Trinichieri explained. "But it was for sure the perfect effort. We played 38 minutes of unbelievable defense. We were intense. We were full of energy."
That energy and that defense allowed the Serbians to hold Darussafaka scoreless during the first 5:22 minutes of the second quarter and the first 6:18 of the last one. Partizan didn't have extraordinary offense during those spans, scoring 14 points in each, but suffocating Darussafaka's scorers allowed the hosts take charge by 30-17 after the first, and to sentence the game at 63-43 after the second.
"We played good defense the whole game, especially in the fourth quarter," stated Ognjen Jaramaz, who played a key role in that late run. "I think the 3 minutes at the beginning of the fourth quarter were the most important, and then we built a lead of 10 to 15 points until the end of game."
In its 50th EuroCup game ever, Partizan racked up a club-record 11 steals, with Rade Zagorac claiming 3.
"We had almost 20 turnovers," Darussafaka head coach Selkuc Ernak lamented. "If your decision-makers, your ball-handlers, commit so many turnovers, that punishes you in European competitions."
The overall result was Partizan's best defensive performance this season, one point better than the 58 allowed to Dolomiti Energia Trento in Top 16 Round 2.