Diana Taurasi, Diminishing Returns

diana taurasi fenerbahce

Fenerbahce beat  Galatasaray 96-86 in the 4th decisive match of the TKBL Final Series and clinched 7th Turkish League crown consecutively.

Ok now; considering  Women’s basketball in Turkey- the season is completely over. What next? Of course, hunting  season is officially open. I will try to go for big today. What about Taurasi?

Last season, Diana Taurasi decided to play in Turkey after all those brilliant seasons in Russia. Her new home was Fenerbahce.

However it seems, that was too uncomfortable for her. She apparently failed a doping test; released but stroke back and proved her innocence. It was the mistake of the test institution, not hers. Nevermind. This season, she returned again.

Her new home, was meaningful. She choose the archrivals of the Canarias, the Mightly Lions, needless to say, Galatasaray. However it seems, that was a diminishing return.

According to mainstream neoclassical literature of economics, which actually owes it to David Ricardo and his analysis on rent; diminishing returns is a very widely known and frequently used word. The principle is quite simple.

If you keep appropriating the productive resource more than necessary, than you will lose effectiveness. If you force the optimum level for more, you will ruin the production process. That was one of the main reasons on the failure of Galatasaray against Fenerbahce this year.

Let’s face the facts. Galatasaray, played 7 times against Fenerbahce in last two months and only won 2. They won the Turkish Cup but lost in the Euroleague and TKBL Finals. What was the performance of Taurasi in the simplest terms? Here is a simple sort of table that we can take a look.

Taurasi stats 1

After looking at the data, the thing that catches my eye is this: If Taurasi played more than 30 minutes and scored more than 20, Galatasaray lost against Fenerbahce. As a person, who had a chance follow  the matches from the respective courts of both teams, Caferaga and Abdi Ipekci, one can easily pick out the scheme of the clashes.

Galatasaray, this year, was a team based on offense. That’s what their coach Ceyhun Yildizoglu said in his own words. How they can score? They have Tina Charles, Sylvia Fowles, Bahar Caglar, Epiphany Prince and Diana Taurasi in their lineup.

Charles has an excellence on playing near to the rim and scoring from low post is like child play for her. Caglar accompanied Charles and Fowles them with assists and midrange shooting. One can easy draw the 2 or 3 offensive sets of Galatasaray that at least two of these three players are involved.

Epiphany Prince was an important fast break weapon  and a player who can create her own shot; she is a star in her level and position. More than that, Galatasaray have Saziye Ivegin, who has consistent 3point shooting if we leave other skills of her aside. Of course they have Diana Taurasi and finally point guard Isil Alben, the of the starting five who feeds them and calls plays.

Most of the time, Galatasaray started the games with points from the big three; Charles-Caglar-Fowles and generally the team builds a lead. The important factor that hurts Galatasaray all the time was the team defense.

Especially Angel McCoughtry and Cappy Pondexter, along with Zane Tamane were utterly unstoppable. Ivana Matovic, like Nevriye Yilmaz tended to play close to the arc so that Charles and Fowles did not manage to follow all the time. Somehow, Fenerbahce was alive in the scoreline.

Usually they felt behind but managed to come back.  When Galatasaray tried zone, Birsel Vardarli cut the bill with fatal and extraordinarily high percentage 3 points shooting. (5/6 in the first match of the playoffs for example). Of course Fenerbahce had their defensive strategies and some key zone press plays that interrupted the rhythm of Galatasaray.

That was quite important because when the things get tough, Galatasaray simply forgot about the department where they have  their comparative advantage and started to play from outside.

Needlessly to say, Diana Taurasi is a winner. She was the queen in NCAA, Connecticut days, in WNBA, Phoenix Mercury days or Euroleague, Spartak Vidnoe Region days. She was the champion literally.

However, even the biggest players need some time and seasons to rest. Taurasi refused that. At Galatasaray, even at times when the team was on a roll, she did not want to miss the party. Somehow, she wanted to be involved. I don’t say she played in an egoist manner what so ever.

She just couldn’t stop trying to help the team offensively. In her twitter account, the info says: “The only thing that I’m guilty of is taking to many jump shots.” That summarizes a lot of thing.

When Galatasaray struggled in offense, they gave her the ball and she made her jump shots. If those were good, then no problems. However, even the most ignorant basketball follower knows that shooting from long range has its risks with it.

When Taurasi misses and there is Angel McCoughtry, that means fast break for Fenerbahce. Fast break means effortless scoring, the key for comebacks, key to build up a lead. Then what happens? Galatasaray gives the ball to Taurasi again. Willingly accepting the leadership call, she forces shots again and again.

More missed shots, more turnovers. Probably, most of her teammates knows her skills and not completely unhappy that someone that they trust take the responsibility but how can a player defend with maximum enthusiasm if she knows that she won’t use the ball anyway when important moments come. The spiral goes on and on. The results are obvious.

Taurasi stats 2

What was the recipe? Calling Taurasi bench sometimes. Though coach Yildizoglu did it, he did not use that option when important minutes come. Generally, in the last quarters or let’s say last 15 minutes that Fenerbahce outscored her opponent.

Physical exhaustion along with mental one, combined with a growing anxiety and the dimming self-confidence of the team prepared the series of defeats. The most obvious example was the final match where Galatasaray had 10 points difference at the end of the 3rd quarter and Fenerbahce outscored the opponent with 34-14.

At one point when the title was sliding out of the hands of Galatasaray, Taurasi was playing with apparently an injury. She finished the match with 8 turnovers and 6/12 3 pts. %50 seems a good statistic for 3pts. but only if you can distribute them with a more egalitarian way between quarters. Most of the missed shots came in the last stand. Nobody stopped her.

I would to repeat once again that Taurasi is a superstar. On the contrary, she’s getting older. A long season can make anybody tired as well as her. Every star needs some time to rest and have a right to have -not so much successful season- after all those glorious years.

However, that doesn’t change my view on this: “The  reasons  and dynamics  that make Galatasaray win the third match of the playoff series where Taurasi scored 30+, were the very same reasons and dynamics for  Galatasaray losing both the TKBL crown and Euroleague 3rd place.

It is a strange coincidence that she did not manage to take the Russian domestic crown at Spartak. Nevermind, all in all, every player can have diminishing returns and Taurasi is no exception.

Photo:  haber7.com