| Efes Pilsen grabbed sole possession of third place in hotly-contested Group D with a 64-78 road win at Panionios On Telecoms on Thursday in Athens, Greece. Efes dominated early, outscoring Panionios 11-25 in the first quarter to establish a comfortable lead that would serve it the rest of the way. As such, head coach Ergin Ataman's men boosted their record to 4-4 wile avenging a nine-point home loss to Panionios earlier this season. The point difference Thursday could yet prove crucial, as Efes has a tough schedule remaining: CSKA Moscow visiting after end-of-year break and a trip to Real Madrid looming in Week 10. Panionios dropped to 3-5, but remains tied for fourth place with Partizan Belgrade and Armani Jeans Milano, the two teams left on its schedule. Bootsy Thornton led Efes with a season-high 18 points, going over 1,000 for his Euroleague career in the process. Kerem Gonlum added a season-best 17 off the bench, while Michailis Kakiouzis netted 15 and Charles Smith had 10. Miroslav Raicevic led Panionios with a career-high 22 points, Lonny Baxter added 12 and Ioannis Kalampokis scored 11 in defeat.
Efes started in style, blasting ahead 0-7 as Kakiouzis connected for 5 points and dished an assist to Kaya Peker. Kalampokis and Demos Dikoudis scored the first baskets for Panionios after almost 3 minutes, but soon the guests rallied again, this time an 0-8 blast thanks to points by Kakiouzis, Smith, Peker and Thornton. Down now by 4-15, Panionios continued struggling to get connected even while looking inside for points. As a result, Efes found easy baskets on the other end to increase the difference in leaps and bounds, until finally a downtown rifle shot by Smith made it 8-25. The only reaction by Panionios was a triple by Kalampokis for 11-25 as the first period ended.
Gonlum's baseline jumper made it 11-27 to start the second quarter, prompting Panionios to press full-court. The results came straight away: two steals that Kalampokis and Dikoudis converted to make it 15-27. Efes got to the line, however, to double the hosts on the board 15-30. Ivan Zoroski and Branko Cvetkovic came off the bench with a basket each from to bring Panionios within 19-30, but again Efes found solutions punctuated by a sky-hook from Gonlum at 19-37. Panionios faced a three-minute scoring silence until Baxter scored in the paint and stopped Arslan on the defensive end. Raicevic popped in a jumper to get the hosts closer, and in the final 20 seconds before the half, Panionios used the press to steal twice from Efes and on consecutive layups by Cvetkovic trim the difference to 27-37.
Kakiouzis open the scoring after the break, too, but the confidence of Panionios seemed really boosted after its last-minute performance in the second quarter. Raicevic and Aaron Miles cut into the difference, and when Baxter and Raicevic dunked in succession, the hosts had an 18-4 run over 4-plus minutes since the previous quarter and were as close as 37-41. Kakiouzis was ready to step up again for Efes, however. He drew consecutive fouls to make 4 of 4 free throws and supply a 37-45 safety cushion for the visitors. When Smith nailed a triple at 39-48, Panionios didn't flag. Raicevic dunked again and Kalampokis recorded his fifth steal to allow get the hosts back within 43-48. Kalampokis and Raicevic continued to become the go-to players for Panionios as the former dished his eighth assist to the latter at 49-52. Raicevic had already scored 11 points after coming in off the bench to replace Levon Kendall, who got injured early in the second quarter. Efes didn't panic, though; but rather Milos Vujanic fired in a three-pointer as the difference stood at 52-59 after 30 minutes.
On the first scoring play of the final quarter, Gonlum beat the 24-second shot-clock buzzer from behind the arc to send the margin to double digits again, 52-62. As Panionios could not connect for 4 minutes, Efes kept adding to the difference with Kakiouzis scoring with his left hand at 52-66. Raicevic offered a couple of solutions to Panionios from inside and outside the three-point line, making it 57-68. Still, the visitors were now using the clock, prolonging their possessions, and when Gonlum scored in the post it was 57-70. Raicevic, having his best Euroleague performance ever, connected for a dunk-plus-free throw at 60-70. As there was no time left for Panionios to go for the victory, both teams had in mind the nine-point difference by which Panionios had won their first game, in Istanbul. Preston Shumpert and Thornton added to the Efes lead, however, and even that potential tie-break advantage belonged to the visitors at the end.
Thursday, December 18, 2008