Efes Pilsen managed to do in their Euroleague opener what no other team had done Wednesday or Thursday of opening week: win away from home. What's more, the 83-87 Group C victory came in comeback fashion for Efes against one of the hottest teams in Europe, Tau Ceramica of Spain, who had been 10-0 in Spain thus far. In a thrilling run-and-gun game, Efes managed to come back from 14 down to finally to win in the final minute. Trajan Langdon was the man of the game for Efes, scoring 25 points on 10-for-17 field goals, mostly when the heat was on. Nikola Prkacin had 16 points while Antonio Granger added 15 and Ermal Kuqo played a key role in the second half, scoring 10 points. Arvydas Macijauskas had 22 points for Tau, while Kornel David had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Pablo Prigioni had 14 points and six steals and Andres Nocioni had 12 points.
Efes had a strong start to the game, with Nikola Prkacin and Kaya Peker powering for rebounds. A three-pointer by Antonio Granger and a layup by Prkacin put Efes ahead, 3-7. But Peker picked up his second foul just as Tiago Splitter came off the bench to make his official debut with Tau this season. Splitter made a put-back layup and help Tau get the lead, 13-11. Granger and Prkacin helped Efes to stay close, but Nocioni woke up his teammaates, and Tau took off on a 9-0 run in the final 2 minutes of the period. Kornel David hit back-to-back shots in that span while Arvydas Macijauskas made a three-point play to give Tau a seven-point lead, 24-17, after one quarter.
Nocioni carried on scoring in the opening minutes of the second quarter, right before going to the bench with an injured right knee. Trajan Langdon made a three-pointer to bring Efes within three, 32-29. But Splitter and David dominated the boards, while Pablo Prigioni stepped up to score back-to-back three-pointers, then steal an Efes inbound pass to feed Macujauskas for a jumper. Tau's lead reached 12 points, 47-35, with 2 minutes remaining in the half. Splitter slammed it home in the final play of the half to help Tau reach the locker room leading by 13, 51-38, with Macijauskas, David and Nocioni already in double figures at halftime.
Both teams exchanged baskets early in the third quarter, in which David and Langdon were particulary active. David hit two foul shots to make it a 14-point game, 62-58, but Langdon went on fire. He scored 7 points during a 15-2 run in which Granger and Kerem Tunceri made three-point plays to bring Efes back into the game, 64-63. Nocioni, who had entered the court midway through the Efes run, made a three-point play, which Goran Nikolic answered with a layup to make Efes enter the four quarter trailing by just 2 points, 67-65.
Prigioni scored a layup off a steal for the only points during 2 minutes of the final quarter. Then Efes managed to pull a 6-1 run, and a layup by Kuqo gave Efes its first lead since the first quarter, 70-72. Macijauskas responded with a three-point play to give Tau what would be its last lead of the game, 73-72. A 0-7 Efes run featuring 3 free throws by Granger soon made it 73-79, but Tau never gave up. Macijauskas made a four-point play, and even when Tunceri hit a bomb from the top of the arc and Langdon added a jumper, Prigioni scored 2 triples, the second one to finish a fast break, making it 83-84. Tau managed to get back the ball, but Langdon made a layup off a turnover by Prigioni. Nocioni missed a three, and once Tunceri missed 2 free throws, Kuqo blocked a Macijauskas three-point attempt and Prigioni missed from downtown, too. Langdon sealed the win with a free throw for Efes, the only road warrior to survive opening week in the Euroleague.
Thursday, November 6, 2003