Efes Pilsen returned to its strong point, relentless defense, to down visiting Olympiacos 77-69 and take back a piece of first place in Group B on Wednesday. Efes held high-scoring Olympiacos to just 27 points in the second half to come back from short second-half deficits to win. Efes raised its record to 7-3, equalling Lietuvos Rytas after its home loss to Winterthur FCB. Olympiacos fell to sixth place at 4-6. Kaya Peker returned to form for the winners with 21 points on 7 for 13 shooting. He ws followed by Antonio Granger, who scored key fourth-quarter baskets on the way to 14 points, while Ender Arslan and Henry Domercant had 13 each. Nikos Hatzis scored 16 points for Olympiacos, Panagiotis Vasilopoulos and Sofoklis Schortsanitis 10 each. Foul trouble hurt the Reds as big men Schortsianitis, Andrija Zizic and Nikos Barlos were all on the floor for less than 18 minutes.
A week after hitting 17 of 17 free throws for a new Euroleague record, Zizic opened the scoring going 2 for 2 from the foul line. He also opened a duel with Peker in which each scored most of his team's points in the first 4 minutes, after which Efes led 10-9. Peker had 5 by then and Zizic 6, while Antonio Granger had fired in a first triple for the hosts, followed by Nikos Barlos landing one for Olympiacos. Efes, however, seemed better on defense and used that to push ahead. Ender Arslan's 6 free throw points in the next couple minutes put Efes ahead 16-9. Soon, Domercant was scoring 4 consecutive points to mke it 20-11. Sofoklis Shortsianidis kept Olympiacos close with 5 points of his own, but Marko Popovic's triple and layup off the bench in the final minute gave Efes a solid 26-14 edge after 10 minutes.
Olimpiacos got back in the game with a stunning 0-10 blast to start the second quarter. Panagiotis Vasilopoulos sparked it with a triple. Renadlas Seibutis drove for the next basket. Hatzis copied him and then drilled a triple of his own. In under 2 minutes, the Reds were as close as 26-24 and it was whole new game. Granger and Peker, with 7 more points, kept Efes ahead by as many as 5 points, 33-28, but Hatzis was just warming up. His second triple made it 33-31, while another by Seibutis cut the difference to a single point, 35-34. Efes was hanging in to Peker's points until Olympiacos newcomer Matthew Frieje made one jump shot and Hatzis another to put the visitors ahead breifly, 39-40, in the next-to-last minute. A flurry of free throws finished with Seibutis making a pair to tie it up, 42-42, at the half.
Both defenses dominated the third quarter as getting any points to fall proved tough. The task for Olympiacos was complicated by foul trouble, four whistles each by minute 25 for big men Schortsianitis, Zizic and Barlos, many of them drawn by Peker. Domercant's 5 points plus free throws from Peker gave Efes a 52-47 lead, but Hatzis downed 4 foul shots of his own in a 1-6 run that allowed Olympiacos to tie 53-53. Efes ran into its own fouls troubles as Cenk Akyol and Nikola Prkacin left with their fourth each . And when Schortsanitis came back and made 2 at the line, the Reds had gone ahead again, 53-55. Hatzis then put the finish touch on the comeback by drilling a three-pointer in the final minute to leave the Reds in the lead, 55-58 after three quarters.
After Kerem Gonlum opened the final quarter with a basket for Efes, Freije, Christos Harissis and Schortsianitis all got through the defense for inside baskets to put Olympiacos in charge, 57-64. But the Reds would find it awful difficult to score again. Efes shut down the visitors while responding with a game-tying 7-0 burst capped by Arslan's triple to make it 64-64. Edney would put Olympiacos on top again with a drive, but Granger responded with two of his own, the second a reverse that got Efes back in front, 68-67 with 4 minutes left. Olympiacos was not done, as Vasilopoulos scored next, off a great assist by Schortsianitis, but a minute later, Granger answered that with a strike from downtown for a 71-69 Efes advantage. Olympicos would not score again, as Peker and Domercant went to the line over the last 2 minutes to preserve the victory that put Efes back at the top of Group B.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006