You can never have too much depth on your team. Those talented players who start the season in the second unit may be needed when the starters get injured, tired or aren't performing well. Or, as the case with Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul's Leo Westermann late on Thursday night, sometimes that backup will just have the Midas touch.
Westermann, 27, is now in his eighth EuroLeague campaign with his sixth different team. As a tall point guard with a good outside shot (he's 15 for 25 from downtown – 60%! – this season) and fantastic court vision, he knows a thing or two about changing games. And he used all his skills in turning the game upside down in the closing minutes of Thursday's 70-74 come-from-behind win over ALBA Berlin.
Westermann had minimal impact on the game through the first 36 minutes, for much of which Fenerbahce trailed. He didn't attempt a shot and grabbed 3 rebounds in 7 minutes on the floor. However, his teammates had closed the gap to 2 points when Westermann came back into the game as part of a double substitution that saw former EuroLeague MVPs Jan Vesely and Nando De Colo get a break.
The game would never be the same again. With great confidence, his first shot was a three-pointer that gave Fenerbahce its first lead, 63-65. Then he missed for the only time all game before collecting a defensive rebound, drawing a foul and sinking 2 free throws. When ALBA countered with a basket to narrow the gap to 2, Westermann pulled up for a three from the top of the key that made it 65-70 with 1 minute to go. Game over!
Not so fast... Marcus Eriksson hit a clutch three-pointer to give the hosts hope. Fenerbahce called a timeout and had two goals for the ensuing possession: kill as much of the clock as possible and score. After 23 seconds passed, the ball was in Westermann's hands and he made his third triple to put the game on ice. Over the final 4 minutes of the game, Westermann scored 11 points and ALBA had a total of 7.
On a team with bona fide stars like the aforementioned MVPs and current and former All-EuroLeague selections Kostas Sloukas and Luigi Datome, Westermann won't be called on often to play a key role down the stretch. But how much more confident can Fenerbahce be knowing that it has a cold-blooded veteran on the bench ready, willing and able to step up with the game on the line.