Montepaschi Siena took a major step to reach the Quarterfinal Playoffs from Group D by edging Efes Pilsen 76-79 in overtime in Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday night. Montepaschi now leads Group D with a 2-0 record, while Efes will tie for the second place at 1-1 at the end of this round. Bootsy Thornton paced the winners with 18 points, while Romain Sato, Ben Eze and Terrell McIntyre each added 12 for Montepaschi. McIntyre also dished 8 assists and Sato had 5 steals. Ermal Kuqo had 20 points for Efes, Andre Hutson added 14 and Drew Nicholas 12. Free throws by Loren Woods and a jump hook by Kuqo gave Efes a 13-12 edge after 10 minutes. Back-to-back triples by Nicholas gave Efes a 30-19 lead, but a 0-9 run in which Thornton netted 6 points brought Montepaschi within 30-28 at halftime. Sato and Eze took over after the break, allowing the guests to get a 44-49 edge heading into the fourth quarter. Scoonie Penn and an unstoppable Kuqo pushed Efes to 61-55 midway through the fourth quarter, but three-pointers by Shaun Stonerook, McIntyre and Thornton tied the game at 69-69 with 54 seconds to go. Kuqo, Thornton and Nicholas missed from downtown to take the game to overtime. Nicholas and Penn fueled a 7-0 run that allowed Efes to restore a 76-74 edge. Ksistof Lavrinovic made 3 of 4 free throws and Thornton sank an acrobatic jumper for a 76-79 Montepaschi lead with 18 seconds to go. Kuqo and Nicholas missed from downtown in the game's final possession.
Tough defense ruled the first quarter as both sides made great efforts to stop each other first, thinking to score second. The lead changed twice in the first three minutes as Eze opened the score with the free throws in the first minute. Efes Pilsen got its first points of the game through Kenny Gregory and the first lead on an Hutson jumper in the third minute, 4-2. Montepaschi missed straight chances to maintain the lead and was unable to use the advantage of Efes Pilsen’s turnovers. Gonlum and Woods worked well in the paint to lead the home team in the first quarter. Kuqo joined the duo in the last minute to give Efes a 13-12 lead at the end of the first period.
Efes was keen on moving the ball inside to feed Kuqo and Gonlum also in the second period. Gonlum’s slam made it 17-15. Montepaschi’s pressure defense failed as Efes got a couple of layups from Kuqo and Gonlum and then back-to-back three-pointers from Nicholas to race out to its biggest lead, 30-19. But when all was going Efes’s way, Montepaschi strengthened its defense, forced Efes into a few more turnovers and found a triple from McIntyre that restored its confidence. Thornton added 3 free-throw points and then shined with a triple to complete a 0-9 charge that brought his team back and ended the first half at 30-28.
Eze completed the Montepaschi comeback and tied the game at 30-30 on the first play of the second half. Gregory and Gonlum found way to keep Efes slightly ahead, but Montepaschi had answers. Soon McIntyre fed Eze for a mighty two-handed slam and the visitors then took the lead at 34-36 when Eze hit from outside. Saito stretched the lead to 4 from the line but just as quickly Efes tied it at 38-38 and went ahead on Kuqo’s next basket. The score flip-flopped again on a McIntyre triple and Sato free throws. Penn set up Hutson for a thunderous slam, but Vlado Ilievski hit from outside. Eze got some love from the rim as his jumper touched everywhere before falling in, stretching the visitors’ advantage to 6. Nicholas countered with 2 free throws only to see Saito add one at the other end to make it 44-49 after 30 minutes.
Kuqo cut into the Montepaschi lead with a hook shot on the first possession of the fourth quarter and then Penn tied it with a long triple. Eze put the visitors back on top with a jumper, but Hutson answered with a fadeaway jumper and Kuqo then drained a three-pointer to put Efes on top to the delight of the fans. Ilievski kept it close from the line, but everything looked rosy for Efes when Nicholas went to the line, made one, missed the second and the rebound wound up with Penn, who drilled another big-time triple. Lavrinovic tried to get his side going, but another Kuqo three-pointer made it 61-55 and saw Montepaschi take a much-needed timeout. Thornton stepped up with a clutch triple, but Hutson was in form for Efes. Still Montepaschi persisted as Shaun Stonerook’s three cut the gap to 64-61. Kuqo padded the lead from the line and, but Sato made it a 2-point game. Hutson answered for Efe, but McIntyre bettered him with a three. Once more Hutson scored inside, but McIntyre did so from downtown and the score was tied at 69-69 with a minute to go. Both teams had chances to get ahead, but misses from Kuqo, Thornton and Nicholas, in that order, kept it knotted and sent the game to overtime.
Sato drained a three to open the extra period and Gregory’s attempt to answer ended when he was called for an offensive foul for bowling over Stonerook. The Siena forward then stepped up on the other end with an offensive rebound and basket. Nicholas was fouled shooting from downtown and made all 3 to keep Efes close. After a Montepaschi turnover, Penn drilled a three-pointer that put the hosts up 75-74. Hutson killed two birds with one stone when he drew Stonerook’s fifth foul and extended the Efes run to 7-0 from the line. However Lavrinovic went to the line and sank a pair with 1:20 remaining to tie the game once more, 76-76. At the other end, Lavrinovic muscled his way to a defensive rebound, drew a foul and gave his team the lead from the line. After Nicholas missed a long thee, Thornton made an acrobatic jumper to put Siena up 3 with 18 seconds remaining as Efes called timeout. Despite getting multiple looks, Efes came up short and time ran out leaving Montepaschi as the undefeated Group D leader.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008