With defense on the road, Efes makes it two in a row
A week after getting a first Top 16 win in miraculous fashion, Anadolu Efes took its momentum on the road and made it two in a row by locking down host Laboral Kutxa Vitoria to win 66-72 on Friday. Efes raised its Group E record to 2-3, good for a fifth-place tie with Unicaja Malaga. Laboral fell to 1-4 and tied for seventh place with Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul. Efes trailed by as many as 11 points, 13-24, midway through the first quarter, but locked down its defense and held Laboral to just 39 points in the game's last 30 minutes to control the scoreboard to the end. Former Laboral center Milko Bjelica scored 15 points off the bench against his old team, as did Kostas Vasileiadis, who had 12 of his after halftime. Jamon Gordon and last week's hero, Zoran Planinic, scored 12 each, while Dusko Savanovic had 8 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Tibor Pleiss led Laboral with 14 points and Thomas Heurtel had 13, but 19 of their points came in the game's first 8 minutes. Lamont Hamilton was Laboral's only other double-figure scorer, with 10 points.
First quarter: Huertel, Pleiss push Laboral early
Pleiss easily dropped the game's first shot in close, and after Vasileiadis answered by stroking a corner triple, Heurtel did the same for the hosts. When Heurtel then dished to Pleiss, Laboral was ahead 7-3. Savanovic fed Dogus Balbay on the break and Gordon hit a floater for Efes to tie 7-7. Pairs of free throws by Fernando San Emeterio and Pleiss preceded the latter's next hook shot for a 13-7 Laboral lead. Out of a timeout, Efes was able to get within 15-11 on a basket and an assist by Savanovic. But no sooner did that happen than Huertel unleashed 2 three-pointers around another by David Jelinek, pushing Laboral ahead 24-13. Gordon, Bjelica and Birkan Batuk hustled down the next 7 points for Efes to cut the difference to 24-20. But Jelinek finished a break and Hamilton added a free throw to keep Laboral up 27-20 after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Gordon, Planinic completes Efes comeback
Bjelica got the first basket of the second quarter inside and Batuk broke loose for a fastbreak to make it 27-24 and force a Laboral timeout. The timeout helped Efes even more as Planinic posted up for a bank shot and drilled a transition three-pointer for a sudden 27-29 Efes advantage. Guiseppe Poeta stopped Laboral's slide with a tough layup, but when Pleiss banked in an alley-oop pass, Bjelica came the other way and scored twice. Then Gordon spun on the run to score and Savanovic imitated him, but faded away for a swish. Efes now had a 4-17 run and a 31-37 lead, marking an 18-point swing on the scoreboard since the middle of the first quarter. After another Laboral timeout, Heurtel beat the shot clock with a solid lane jumper, while Giuseppe Poeta worked for a free throw as the second quarter ended 34-37 in favor of the visitors.
Third quarter: Vasileiadis joins the Efes party
Vasileiadis started the third quarter as he did the first, with a three-point strike that Savanovic followed with a jumper as Efes raced ahead 34-42. Jelinek finally got Laboral's first basket of the half, after 3 minutes, on an open fastbreak. When Vasileiadis got fouled on a triple, however, and made all 3 free throws, Efes had a double-digit lead, 36-46. Gordon upped it with a nifty baseline runner. Pleiss got 2 points back in close before Fabien Causuer flew along the baseline for a layup-plus-free throw combo to get Laboral within 41-48. Gordon and Pleiss exchanged tough layups before San Emeterio spun for another. But Bjelica answered that with a three-pointer and Planinic beat the shot-clock buzzer to restore a 10-point lead, 45-55, for Efes. A layup by Vasileiadis made it a 12-point difference again, and when Hamilton tried to spark Laboral with a bomb from the arc, Planinic matched it. A huge block by Gordon sent Vasileiadis the other way for a fastbreak triple as Efes rolled to the 30-minute mark with the game's highest lead, 50-63.
Fourth quarter: Efes's defense faces down Laboral comeback try
Hamilton's free throws got the scoreboard ticking in the direction Laboral needed, but Kerem Gonlum got 3 points in a row to keep Efes ahead 53-66. Poeta came up with a big steal and 2 free throws on an unsportsmanlike foul. When Nocioni finished that four-point possession witha driving layup, Laboral was back within single digits at 57-66. Planinic and Hamilton traded baskets as the hosts got closer at 60-68. Poeta's free throws were matched by Savanovic's turnaround, but then the scoring stalled for more than 2 minutes that hurt Laboral more than Efes. Soon, Nocioni, at the foul line, cut the difference to 64-70. After a timeout, however, Planinic lobbed to Bjelica for a layup that, with 1 minute left, put Efes in complete control, 64-72, on its way to a solid road win.
Friday, January 31, 2014