Unicaja sits alone in Group B's top spot after losing all of a 17-point second-half lead but surviving to defeat Efes Pilsen 93-88 in overtime on Thursday in Malaga, Spain. Unicaja is now 3-0, while Efes dropped to 1-2 despite a huge effort to get back into the game. A rain of 13 three-pointers in 35 long-range attempts proved the difference for Unicaja. Omar Cook, Carlos Jimenez, Berni Rodriguez and Taquan Dean hit a triple each as Unicaja poured in 20 points during the five-minute overtime. Sharing shots was reflected in the boxscore, too, as Dean led five double-figure scorers for the winners with 17 points. Joel Freeland had 15 to go with 9 rebounds, Cook and Rodriguez scored 13 points each, and Robert Archibald added 12. Unicaja had led 59-42 midway through the third quarter, but stalled against a zone defense thereafter as Efes roared back to take slim leads in the fourth. Ender Arslan exploded late to lift Efes into overtime, but there, Unicaja's sharpshooters proved the difference. Bootsy Thornton had 19 points for Efes, while teammates Kaya Peker and Bostjan Nachbar added 17 each, Charles Smith 11 and Arslan 10 plus 8 assists.
Free throws by Archbiald and Jiri Welsch pushed Unicaja to a quick lead to start the game, while Efes struggled for decent shots early. Archibald added a dunk for a 6-0 start before Efes finally hit the scoreboard on a triple from the top by Thornton. Soon, Peker scored inside for the guests to make it 8-7, but Dean got on the board for Unicaja. Igor Rakocevic joined the fun for Efes with his first couple of shots going in, but Dean matched it coming off a screen at 13-9. Daniel Santiago answered for Efes against his old teammates. but his replacement in the paint for Unciaja, Freeland, also scored at the basket. Thornton made a sweet inside shot to get Efes within 13-15 before Rakocevic tied from the line, but Saul Blanco answerd from the corner for Unicaja. An open Nachbar tied it again from deep. Freeland slammed in a rebound, Santiago answered inside and, as the buzzer sounded, Blanco was launching another triple for a 23-20 Unicaja lead after 10 minutes.
Blanco started the second quarter where he left off, with his third triple in as many minutes. Nachbar worked inside to end a mini-drought for Efes, but Archibald made a super spinning drive to keep the hosts up 28-22. Nachbar scored his team's next 5 points, too, cutting the difference to the minimum, 28-27, as an Efes zone stymied Unicaja. But that was only until young Cesar Lima drilled a triple from the corner, reviving the locals. Smith and Rakocevic up the Efes scoring until the guests could again come within a point, 34-33, on a feed from Arslan to Peker for a dunk. Rodriguez answered from the corner, however, and Cook soon matched that triple before Lima finished the half with a layup to keep Unicaja in charge still at 43-36.
Defenses ruled right after halftime until Cook's pass for an alley-oop dunk in traffic by Freeland. Next, Freeland went outside, draining a jumper and the accompanying free throw for the first double-digit lead, 48-36. Thornton's tap-in finally got Efes on the board after almost 3 minutes, but a technical foul on Tunceri gave 2 points back to Unicaja. When the same back-door dunk play by Freeland was repeated, this time with no one near him, Unicaja was rolling at 52-38. Although Thornton and Tunceri got shots down, Unicaja kept soaring with free throws by Dean and another basket inside by Freeland. The Unicaja defense did the rest until Cook's big triple ballooned the lead to 17 points, 59-42. Free throws by Nachbar seemed innocent enough until Peker scored twice inside to cut the difference to 59-48. After a Unicaja timeout, Nachbar hit free throws and Smith scored inside to extend the Efes run to 0-10. When Arslan found Peker inside for a basket and free throw, the guests were suddenly within 59-55 after 30 minutes.
Unicaja struggled to stay ahead as Efes kept pouring on the points with a triple by Smith and another layup by Peker to make it 61-60. While Efes was locked in its zone, free throws sustained Unicaja, but only until Thornton went backdoor, scored on a pass from Peker and hit the go-ahead free throw at 63-65, completing a seven-minute, 17-point comeback. Unicaja woke up some as Archibald's baseline jumper dropped for a tie and his free throws put his team back in front, 63-65. Rodriguez made a big steal and layup, which proved even bigger after Arslan's first shot all night fell from way downtown at 69-68. Cook's free throws sent Unicaja up 71-68 going into the last 3 minutes, but Arslan matched him. Unicaja found Freeland alone again, but Arlsan was not to be stopped. His next shot from the arc hit nothing but net to tie 73-73 with 2 minutes left. Those minutes passed pointlessly, however, as Peker missed free throws and Unicaja twice on the last possession, sending the game to OT tied 73-73.
Smith opened the extra 5 minutes by drawing a foul and hitting free throws to give Efes a 73-75 edge. Dean buried a corner three-pointer but more free throws by Smith restored a 76-77 Efes edge. Rodriguez hit a free throw to tie before Cook downed a key triple for a 80-77 Unicaja lead with 3:30 left. Thornton and Dean traded foul shots and a jump hook by Peker kept Efes as close as 80-79. Even when Jimenez fired in an uncontested corner triple, Arslan's foul shots and a three-pointer by Thornton kept Efes alive 87-86 with 1:15 left. Rodriguez immediately answered from downtown, however, forcing an Efes timeout at 90-86, with 58.5 seconds left. Nachbar missed from three-point range while Dean sealed the outcome with a seven-meter bomb that allowed all Unicaja fans to celebrate their team's undefeated status in Group B!
Thursday, November 5, 2009