Partizan Igokea took a major step towards reaching the Quarterfinal Playoffs from Group D by downing Efes Pilsen 79-83 in Istanbul, Turkey, on Thursday night. Partizan improved to 3-2 but needs to beat Panathinaikos at Pionir Arena next week in order to make it to the playoffs. Meanwhile, Efes dropped to 1-4 and ran out of the chances to advance to the next round. Nikola Pekovic paced the winners with 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting. Uros Tripkovic added 12 and Milt Palacio and Milenko Tepic each had 11 for Partizan. Scoonie Penn led Efes with 33 points on 7-for-10 three-point shooting. Mustafa Abi added 12, Ermal Kuqo and Kenny Gregory each had 11 while Kerem Gonlum barely missed a double-double with 9 points and 13 rebounds. Pekovic came off the bench midway through the first quarter and quickly had 12 points to give Partizan a 19-24 lead after 10 minutes. Tepic and Cedomir Vitkovac boosted the guests' lead to 21-34 early in the second quarter but Penn single-handedly brought Efes within 29-38 at halftime. Three-pointers by Palacio, Tepic and Vitkovac made it a 16-point game midway through the third quarter. A rain of three-pointers allowed Partizan to seal the outcome, 45-68, soon after that. Efes kept trying but Partizan held off a wild fourth-quarter rally to escape with a major road win.
Tripkovic got Partizan going with a smooth triple, while Slavko Vranes followed a power layup with a five-meter jumper for a 1-7 lead. Efes could not find the way to the basket in the opening four minutes and head coach David Blatt called timeout to adjust his offense. Kuqo stepped up with a layup-plus-foul that Penn followed with free throws for a 6-7 deficit. Pekovic came off the bench, however, and immediately delivered. He hit a turnaround jumper and after Penn tied the game with a triple, back-to-back baskets by Dusan Kecman and Pekovic gave the guests a 9-13 edge. Pekovic kept pacing Partizan and Petar Bozic struck from downtown to keep Partizan ahead, 14-18. Gregory stepped up with a three-point play and Penn scored again to give Efes its first lead, 19-18. Pekovic had all points in a 0-6 run that he capped with a two-handed dunk to make Partizan regain the lead, 19-24, after 10 minutes.
Efes's limited rotation also failed on rebounds and second-chance points and allowed Partizan to keep full control of the game early in the second quarter. Tepic and Vitkovac fired up Partizan, as both players combined for 8 points in a 2-10 run that boosted the guests' lead to double digits. Efes struggled to score until Mustafa Abi stepped up with a layup, but Pekovic dunked it again for a 23-36 Partizan margin. Abi paced Efes with a free throw and Penn added a driving layup, making Partizan head coach Dusko Vujosevic call timeout at 26-36. Pekovic took over with a turnaround jumper, but Penn had the final word for Efes. He answered from downtown in the closing seconds to get Efes within single digits, 29-38, as both teams headed to the locker rooms.
Partizan kept following its game plan, playing simple but effective basketball. Palacio, who had been scoreless in the first half, followed a jumper with a corner three-pointer to give Partizan a 14-point lead. Efes tried a zone defense, but that is when Partizan broke the game open with three-pointers from Tepic, Palacio and Vitkovac to make Blatt call timeout at 36-52. Kerem Gonlum dunked it in traffic and soon drew an unsportsmanlike foul from Vranes, but Efes had lost control already. Meanwhile, Pekovic shined with a jump hook and Tripkovic hit twice from downtown to make it 39-60. Abi joined the three-point shootout, but Kecman immediately copied him in the other end. Tepic buried another triple before Ender Arslan beat the buzzer with a floating layup to get Efes within 47-68 after 30 minutes.
Tepic’s triple enlarged the gap to 23 points. The only working scoring weapon for Efes was Penn, who hit a three pointer to complete a 7-0 Efes run to reduce the difference to 57-73. Efes then started zone pressure, which helped the home team to create hope of winning the game. With three minutes remaining, Gonlum’s layup reduced the gap to 7 points, completing a 21-7 charge. But Pekovic denied Efes’s comeback with a skillful hook shot that held his team up. Penn cut the gap to 72-78, but Velickovic answered with free throws to make it 72-80 with 21 seconds remaining. Gregory threw in a triple and Penn scored 2 of his three free throws with a second to go to determine the final score: 79-83.
Thursday, March 13, 2008