Heurtel, Efes outlast Cedevita at home, 80-76
Anadolu Efes Istanbul held on for dear life to a victory that leaves the Group E playoff race wide open when it rallied from double-digit deficits to outlast Cedevita Zagreb 80-76 on Friday. Efes raised its record to 5-6 and will live to fight at least another week from fifth place, one below the playoff spots. Cedevita was eliminated as its record fell to 2-9. With Nemanja Gordic on fire early, the visitors staked double-digit leads in each half, but Thomas Heurtel paced Efes comebacks. The hosts went ahead for good on a Birkan Batuk triple with just over 2 minutes left and preserved the difference with perfect free throw shooting to the finish. Heurtel led Efes with 19 points, including 6-for-6 two-point accuracy, and 6 assists. Derrick Brown and Dario Saric followed with 12 points each and Cedi Osman got 10 including key late free throws. Bryant Dunston blocked 4 shots for the winners. Gordic and Marko Arapovic led Cedevita with 16 each, while Miro Bilan added 14 and James White 10.
First quarter: Gordic lights it up for visitors
Bilan made a pretty reverse for Cedevita and Osman blasted a triple to get Efes going. Gordic downed a layup and White followed with another as Cedevita led 3-6. Dunston rumbled to the basket for Efes before White scored inside again and Luka Babic hit 2 free throws at 5-10. Heurtel joined the Efes scoring column from mid-range, and after Dunston swatted a shot by Arapovic, took the ball the other way to get Efes within 9-10. Arapovic got his basket on the next try and soon Babic was feeding Bilan for a fastbreak dunk. Brown scored before Gordic drained a big triple to make it 11-17. Osman got one basket back before Brown skied for super slam at 15-17. Out of a timeout, a red-hot Gordic fired in 2 more triples as the Cedevita lead climbed to 15-23. Elijah Johnson answered from downtown for Efes and Brown got free for a layup, but Arapovic lined up the next triple for Cedevita at 20-26. Gordic had his foot on the line for his next jumper and it gave him 13 points and Cedevita a 20-28 edge after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Saric leads Efes charge
Babic picked up where Gordic left off, hitting a mid-range jumper for a double-digit Cedevita lead, 20-30. Furkan Korkmaz set up Johnson for another triple and Alex Tyus downed a hook shot to get the hosts within 25-30. Bilan returned to stop an Efes fastbreak with a block at one end, then after a timeout, bank in a shot at the other. He then put back a blocked shot that fell to him to make it 25-34. Tyus did the same at the other end after an offensive rebound by Saric, who soon stuck a triple from the top to trim the difference to 30-34. Another offensive rebound by Saric led to Heurtel making a runner from the lane. And after a Cedevita timeout, Saric tied it up, 34-34 with a deep two-pointer. The Efes defense had held Cedevita to just 6 points in the quarter so far, but Arapovic stopped the hosts' 9-0 run with free throws to let his team keep a 34-36 edge at the half.
Third quarter: Pullen and Heurtel duel
After Cedevita's slow-scoring second quarter, Arapovic immediately converted a nice feed from White to open the second half. Then he picked up a loose pass and drilled a three-pointer to make it 34-41. Heurtel answered with a high floater. White stole and fed Arapovic again for a fastbreak layup and then Jacob Pullen stepped back for a huge swish to restore a double-digit lead, 36-46. Saric was again the answer man for Efes with a triple of his own and a pass that resulted in Dunston hitting 2 free throws. Pullen fed White for a basket, while Heurtel pulled up and hit one for Efes to get within 43-48. Heurtel was back with a quick-trigger triple to get a rise out of the crowd, the Jayson Granger made a driving reverse, his first basket of the game, count for a 48-48 tie. After a timeout, Heurtel fired a bullet pass on the baseline to Granger for the home team's first lead since 3-2. Bilan answered with a layup to tie before Osman made 1 of 2 free throws and Johnson banked a high layup as Efes went up 53-50. Karlo Zganec earned a free throw with an offensive rebound before Pullen reappeared with a go-ahead triple to let Cedevita keep clinging to a lead, 53-54, after 30 minutes.
Fourth quarter: Efes holds on at the finish!
Fran Pilipec ended a scoreless first 90 seconds of the final quarter with a three-point stroke from way downtown for a 53-58 Cedevita lead. Heurtel scored on a pass from Dunston and Saric powered inside to tie it. After Zganec and Granger traded baskets, Babic picked up a loose ball and hit from long range to make it 59-62. Brown would swish two shots for Efes, but in between, Gordic reappeared with a driving layup and three-point conversion. However, Heurtel's steal and long pass to Brown for a fastbreak dunk tied it again, 65-65. After a timeout, White scored in close for Cedevita, and soon after Granger's free throws knotted the scoreboard at 67-67 with under 4 minutes left. Heurtel and Bilan exchanged baskets as both teams strained to get an edge, but couldn't. The ice-breaker came on a drive and assist by Brown to Batuk with a triple from the corner, his first points, at 72-69, with 2:12 to play. Arapovic answered with a lane jumper, but Saric at the other end put back an offensive rebound at 74-71 with 1:13 to play. Bilan answered with a back-down bank shot with 53 seconds left. After Efes missed, Cedevita took a timeout tried to go inside to Bilan, but the ball came loose and Osman picked it up. He was fouled and hit both free throws with 7 seconds left, as did White for Cedevita and Heurtel for Efes in the next two seconds, making it 78-75. Batuk fouled Pullen with 3 seconds left. Pullen hit the first and missed the second, but the rebound fell to Osman, who made both again to make sure of the outcome.
Friday, March 18, 2016