My love affair with Dario Saric is now taking a break for the summer, sort of the opposite of what happened in Grease, as Anadolu Efes fell to Karsiyaka in five games in the Turkish Basketball League Finals, ending their season after their last loss yesterday.
While my knowledge of the TBL is overwhelmingly geared towards Efes and Saric, this was an upset from what I can tell. The fourth-seeded Karsiyaka (19-11 in the regular season), pulled off a surprising series win over top-seeded Fenerbache Ulker (23-7), a team consisting of former lottery pick Jan Vesely and 2014 Suns first rounder Bogdan Bogdanovic, in the TBL semifinals. I expected a convincing win in the seven-game series for Efes, but that wasn't the case for Saric and his teammates.
After carrying Efes throughout the playoffs to the finals, frequently looking like the best player on the court for either side, Saric cooled off in the Finals. He was inconsistent, putting up a fantastic 15-point, 14-rebound performance in the series opener, but scoring just eight points (33.3% from the field) over the last two games of the finals. This leaves his finals statistics uneven overall, posting 28.4 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 3.0 APG and 3.0 TOV, while shooting 39.5% (38 attempts) from the field, 35.3% (17 attempts) from three and 83.3% (12 attempts) from the line.
His overall playoff lines (11 games) finished at 25.7 MPG, 11.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.8 APG and 2.2 TOV. He recorded a field-goal percentage of 47.8% (90 attempts), a three-point percentage of 39.5% (38 attempts) and a free-throw percentage of 80.8% (26 attempts).
Saric became the focal point of Efes as the season wore on. It was an encouraging campaign for his prospects as an NBA player, especially with that burgeoning shot from beyond the arc, something I delved into earlier in the playoffs.
He gave us two new highlights during the Finals as well: the first is a smooth drive to the basket for the layup, displaying a better ability at creating his own opportunities, while the second is a a cross-court pass out of the post that leads to a three pointer, showcasing his innate passing skills:
76ers fans' next chance to watch Saric play will be as a member of the Croatian national team in the 2015 FIBA EuroBasket tournament in September.
Another player likely to be on that Croatian roster, Mario Hezonja, is still playing in his respective league's championship series, as his Barcelona squad dropped Game 1 of the Spanish ACB League Finals to Real Madrid, 78-72. Hezonja is the reason the contest was even that close, as he put up a game-high 18 points in 25 minutes off the bench. He made six of his 10 shots overall, including five made three pointers on six attempts from deep.
Being able to come in off the bench in a championship game with little seasoning this year, as Hezonja is averaging just 12 MPG for Barcelona, and completely take over is why Hezonja is a surefire top-10 pick in next week's draft and a guy the Sixers should really consider making a play for, either with their own first rounder or possibly another high pick that they can acquire.
Mike Schmitz of Draft Express did a great video breakdown of his performance yesterday. Here's one clip I grabbed from it of Hezonja coming off a screen baseline and then drilling a contest three, but the whole video deserves a view:
Schmitz is super high on Hezonja in general, tweeting the following after the game:
No way Hezonja fails in the NBA. Zero chance. 6' 8" athlete who shoots it in a variety of ways. Competitive. My No. 3 overall prospect.— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) June 19, 2015
I love the ego. Dude can back it up. Too many softies in the NBA. We kill guys for being "passive" but also kill them for over-confidence?— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) June 19, 2015
Having a competent point guard, not necessarily the hardest thing to find in today's NBA, out there to feed Hezonja those looks is just dreamy. If Sam Hinkie was to pool the Sixers' assets together and somehow end up with both Hezonja AND D'Angelo Russell on Thursday, he automatically gets added to the ballot of November's Philadelphia Mayoral Election. That's also to say nothing of one day uniting Hezonja and Saric together to form the Croatian Rotation:
"Come back, so we can be young men together again. Come back with me. Come back..." pic.twitter.com/1ipvMo83Ja— Shamus (@shamus_clancy) May 23, 2015
Just five more days...