The task ahead of Shane Larkin and Anadolu Efes, to repeat as EuroLeague champions, is a great challenge.

Thursday’s EL season opener in Madrid was just further proof of that.

Efes opened the EuroLeague regular season on the road against a fellow contender, Real Madrid, the same team they knocked off in an epic five-game series in the 2021 EuroLeague playoffs. In their first matchup since the pivotal Game 5 of that series, this time it was Real Madrid that came out on top.

Despite 21 points from Shane to pace Efes, Real Madrid led wire-to-wire in an 82-69 victory.

Home-standing Real Madrid got off to a quick start with a 12-0 run. Shane was able to kill the run after three and a half minutes with a slash into the paint off the pick-and-roll. However, Madrid used that early push to pull out to a 32-15 lead after the first quarter. Most of the Efes scoring from the field throughout the game came from Shane running the pick-and-roll. He also tallied six assists and took advantage of Real Madrid’s drop coverage to bury three of his six 3-point attempts.

Newcomer Filip Petrusev also had an impressive showing in his Efes debut. He was the only other scorer in double figures for the visitors, scoring 17 points on six-of-eight shooting.

Ultimately, however, it was Real Madrid’s dominance on the glass and interior scoring that was their primary advantage and proved to be too much for Shane and Efes to handle. Madrid’s bigs crashed the boards to the tune of a 47-21 rebounding advantage, while also grabbing 16 offensive boards.

Efes was able to get the deficit down to 13 points in the third quarter, but Madrid responded and pushed the lead back to 20, holding that edge for the rest of the game. Despite being down 20 in the fourth quarter, Shane was able to get at least one highlight to remember in the final stretch, with Efes running him off an Iverson screen into a side pick-and-roll that led to an impressive four-point play with 8:32 left in the game.

Efes will look to bounce back from the loss in their second EuroLeague matchup, coming up on Friday, October 8 when they host CSKA Moscow at Sinan Erdem Sports Hall. Efes memorably defeated CSKA in last year’s EuroLeague Final Four to advance to the championship match. Tip-off is schedules for 8:30 pm local time in Istanbul, 1:30 pm ET in the U.S.