In a tight battle between two unlucky teams hoping to sneak into the Top 16, Efes proved to have fortune on its side tonight as they outlasted Alba Berlin 73-74 to improve to 5-5 and hold on to hope of advancement in contentious Group A. With the victory, Efes broke a string of four straight losses, a couple of them in the last minute. This time, Efes was able to survive a furious fourth-quarter comeback by Alba and stay at least within shouting distance of the top four spots in the group. Marcus Brown was the go-to man for the winnes with 31 points, while Kaspars Kambala made the inside points with 19. Alba's record now stands at 3-7 after the loss.
Despite having their backs against the wall, Alba did not score during the first three minutes of the game while falling behind 0-7. It was on Wendell Alexis to finally bring Alba to the scoreboard with six points. Alexis also did a good job on defense against Mehmet Okur, holding him to 1-for-7 shooting in the half. But neither Marko Pesic nor Stefano Garris could do the same with Marcus Brown, who with 12 points in the first quarter put Efes in as much control as a visiting team could want, 25-12. In the next 10 minutes, however, Alba turned on its defense, which limited Efes to just four points in the next six minutes. The easy baskets that went with that strong defense, by Teoman Ozturk, Henrik Rodl and Tommy Thorwarth, pulled the hosts back to life at 23-29. Kaspars Kambala was there in the middle to put Efes ahead again by double digits, at 25-35, but Alexis, with a huge three-pointer, sparked Alba's final spurt into halftime, where they could look at an acceptable 34-38 deficit. Brown was up to 16 points by then for the visitors, Alexis 11 for Alba.
The third quarter again started with three scoreless minutes, this time by Efes, as Alba was able to even the score at 38-38. But again Marcus Brown was there with a four-point-play 39-44 to lead the visitors to a new cushion. He and Kambala now were the main forces, pushing Efes ahead again by ten (46-56) against the Berliners, who in vain tried to catch up with three-pointers. After 30 minutes Alba trailed 48-56 with Brown already having scored 26 points and Kambala 16.
Efes was still leading strong at 53-63 after 34 minutes when Alba switched to pressure defense,which gave the Berliners six unanswered points by Dejan Koturovic and Jorg Lutcke (59-63) and forced an Efes timeout. Alper Yilmaz came out of the timeout with a big three-pointer, and after two more threes by Saulius Stombergas, it was Alba's turn to take a timeout, down 64-72 with 2 minutes 50 seconds left. Alexis drew the fifth fouls on Stombergas and Okur and scored his free throws (68-72). After a tip-in by Koturovic, Kambala and Phelps only scored one of their pairs of free throws (71-73, 1'30"). The last minute became a thrilling free throw contest: Kaya Peker missed two, Marko Pesic hit two (73-73, 47"). With 28 seconds to go Marcus Brown was on the line, hitting only one (73-74), but Koturovic could not finish Alba's last offense, and the season for the Berliners could be over now.
Wednesday, January 9, 2002