Just in time for the middle of the regular season, Efes Pilsen roared back into the thick of the Group B race by defending its home court 77-64 against a pesky, although still winless, Entente Orleanaise. Efes Pilsen improved to 2-3 in Group B while Orleans is looking for a miracle now at 0-5, making it the Euroleague's last team without a victory. Efes reeled off a 20-5 run over the fist 6 minutes of the second quarter to open up a 40-19 breach that proved to be insurmountable for the visitors to overcome despite Ryvon Covile and Austin Nichols making valiant effort to do just that. The Efes victory was a genuine group effort as the winners had 9 players with 6 points or more and they dished 23 assists among them. Bostjan Nachbar led the way 12 while Igor Rakocevic added 9 and Charles Smith, Mario Kasun, Bootsy Thornton, and Sinan Guler all had 8 points. Cedrick Banks paced Orleans with 12 points while Nichols chipped in 16.
Banks started the game on fire for Orleans, opening the scoring with a three-pointer from the wing. Thornton responded quickly with a pull-up in the lane for Efes only to see Banks match it. Thornton found Mario Kasun under the basket for a dunk, but once again Banks found the bottom of the net. Thornton and Banks then traded three-pointers before the Thornton-Kasun connection ended in another two-handed slam by the big man. Out of a TV timeout, Efes tied the game at 10-10 on a bucket by big man Kaya Peker, who had just entered the game. Sinan Guler then drilled a triple to put Efes ahead. Although Justin Doellman struck back with a nice jumper for Orleans, Guler drove baseline and got a floater to fall. When Kasun threw down a reverse alley-oop, Efes led 17-12 and Orleans asked for a timeout. Following the stoppage, Nichols stepped up and hit a tough jumper for Orleans, but Bostjan Nachbar came off the Efes bench to drain a long three-pointer to send his team into the second quarter up 20-14.
Ludovic Vaty notched made a three-point play the hard way to restore the visitors' footing at the start of the second quarter. Or so it seemed. Suddenly, Nachbar sparked a 13-0 Efes run by using his size to post up for the inside score. Igor Rakocevic fed a streaking Ender Arslan for a breakaway layup, and Smith added a three-pointer the next time down to make Orleans call timeout with the Efes lead now in double digits, 27-17. The timeout did not change the momentum of the game as Smith drained another triple off an Orleans turnover. Nachbar then hit again from downtown to make it 33-17. Ryvon Covile finally scored for Orleans but Arslan immediately dropped another long-range bomb to extend the lead. Smith used his long arms to get a steal and coast in for the layup, and Rakocevic tossed in a pair of foul shots as the Efes advantage skyrocketed above 20 points, 40-19. Trying to breathe some life back into this team, Covile scored back-to-back buckets, then Nichols picked up the slack by scoring 6 straight points to cap a 0-10 run and reduce the difference to 40-29 at the half.
Nichols got to the line for 2 foul shots to start the third and chip the deficit down to single digits. Efes stayed cold, and when Aldo Curti drained a three from the corner, it capped the Orleans run at 0-15 with the lead reduced to just 40-34. Kasun and Thornton woke up Efes with 3 layups in a row. Peker then followed with a 2-plus-1 as Efes once again found their flow in attack. Nichols, on fire, knocked down a triple, Adrien Moerman added a pair of free throws, and Nichols cruised in for a layup to not let Efes slip away, 49-41. Nachbar made a pair of free-throws after robbing Curti of the ball and attacking the bucket in transition. Arslan drove in with some fancy dribbling and after an empty trip by Orleans Guler fed Nachbar for an alley-oop layup on the break. Efes was back up by 15 on two free throws by Daniel Santiago and went into the fourth ahead 58-44 as Covile tipped in a miss at the buzzer.
Orleans’s Anthony Dobbins drove in hard for the one-handed dunk to start the fourth. Santiago hit back with a score off an offensive board. Rakocevic then was fouled on a three-pointer and made all his foul shots. Justin Doellman worked the offensive glass for a put back, but Guler kept Efes going by swishing a triple from the wing. Santiago followed up with a slam off another second-chance opportunity to give the home side a 20-point advantage, 68-48, and put the game well out or reach. Out of a timeout, Banks made a tough jumper ending up on his back, but Rakocevic matched him with a shot from the baseline. Doellman got a flip shot to fall, but its was too little and way too late as Efes cruised to the victory till Elio Sadiku hit a thee-pointer from just over half court to bring the final score down to 77-64.
Thursday, November 26, 2009