Efes Pilsen edged Montepaschi Siena 60-58
Top 16 fever in Istanbul was rewarded with drama and a victory as Efes Pilsen held on for dear life to a 60-58 home win over Montepaschi Siena before 11,800 fans at Sinan Erdem Arena on Wednesday. Efes posted a 1-0 start in Group G, but not before sweating a final shot by Siena guard Nikos Zisis, whose three-pointer with 30 seconds left had already quieted the crowd. Zisis picked up a loose ball with 5 seconds left and raced across halfcourt looking for the win, but his running three-point try glanced off the rim, allowing Efes to claim victory. The winners were led in scoring again by Igor Rakocevic with 17 points. He was seconded by Bootsy Thornton, who was all over the floor, scoring 12 points and ripping 9 rebounds. Nikola Vujcic and Lawrence Roberts added 8 points each, including 5 between them when Siena closed to within 52-51 late in the final quarter. The visitors, who had climbed back from a double-digit deficit in the third quarter, got 16 points and 8 rebounds from big man Milovan Rakovic, while Rimantas Kaukenas added 12 points and Zisis 9. Siena played without its regular season leader, Bo McCalebb, who was injured and is out indefinitely with a broken foot.
Kerem Gonlum drove baseline for a layup to open the scoring for Efes. After Zisis got Siena on the board by laying up a backdoor pass from Shaun Stonerook, Thornton buried the game's first triple at 5-2. Rakovic tipped in a miss to keep Siena close before Andrew Wisniewski answered with a step-back baseline shot for Efes. Then Rakocevic landed in the scoring column strong, with a triple-plus-free throw for a four-point play at 11-4. Rakovic put back another Siena miss, then followed his third offensive rebound by spinning for a layup to make it 11-8. After a timeout, it was Rakovic again slamming on the break, but Rakocevic went him a point better with a back-door layup and free throw. A short jumper by Zisis was matched by Gonlum hitting free throws. Then Kaukenas saw his first basket answered by that of Robert. Kaukenas got the last word of the quarter, however, with a face-up triple that trimmed the Efes advantage to the minimum, 18-17, after 10 minutes.
Efes bolted from the gate in the second quarter behind Sinan Guler's disruptive defense. He stopped a layup attempt by Marko Jaric, then stole twice, dunking one breakaway layup himself, while Roberts finished the second, making it 22-17 and forcing a Siena timeout. The visitors made the next steal before Ksistof Lavrinovic fed Tomas Ress for a layup and David Moss backed down for a basket at 23-21. The Siena defense was forcing turnovers and bad shots on Efes, which took its own timeout now. Nonetheless, Siena completed its run with Rakovic converting a pass from Kaukenas, who then buried a long two-pointer for Siena's first lead, 23-25. Efes didn't wait to respond, with Thornton hitting a baseline turnaround and Rakocevic a fastbreak layup to reclaim the lead. Moss took it back for Siena with another short shot, but Vujcic got free for the last one of the quarter as Efes clung to a 29-27 halftime edge.
Rakocevic and Vujcic quickly added to the Efes lead with high-post jumpers to start the second half. When Gonlum found Thornton in the corner for a smooth three-pointer, the difference was up to 35-27. Siena broke a three-minute scoreless stretch with a steal that led to a layup by Moss. Wisniewski's layup for Efes was answered by Rakovic inside as Siena tried to stay close. A tense couple minutes ended with Zisis feeding Rakovic for another layup at 37-33. Bostjan Nachbar came out of nowhere for Efes to dunk on a nice play, although Malik Hairston matched him with a jumper for Siena. But then Efes pulled away quickly with Thornton scoring a three-point play inside then Vujcic going backdoor for a reverse that forced a Siena timeout at 44-35. Just back on the floor, Kaukenas stopped Siena's slide with a layup that Rakocevic answered with a killer triple for the game's first double-digit lead, 47-37. It would not stand, however, as Marco Carraretto closed the quarter with his own triple, keeping Siena within single digits, 47-40, with 10 minutes left.
Zisis opened the final quarter with a basket that Rakocevic bested by rattling in a corner triple. When Gonlum muscled in a layup, the Efes lead hit 52-43. Rakovic responded with a fastbreak dunk for Siena and Kaukenas added a foul-line jumper, cutting the difference to 52-47. Moss was the next Siena player to step up, downing a reverse at 52-49, after which the visitors forced a 24-second violation on Efes. Lavrinovic joined the fun then, powering in his first basket at 52-51. With 5 minutes left, it was anybody's game. Vujcic ended Siena's 0-8 run with an inside basket, and after he blocked Rakovic, Roberts buried a triple that brought the crowd to its feet for a 57-51 scoreboard. After another timeout, Lavrinovic stepped inside the arc for a two-point jumper that Thornton answered with free throws, making it 59-53 heading into the last 2 minutes. Lavrninovic trimmed the difference with a driving layup at 59-55, but now less than a minute remained as he fouled Wisniewski, who made 1 of 2 free throws. With 30 seconds left, however, good Siena ball movement let Zisis raise up from the corner for a triple to suddenly make it 60-58. When Efes missed two chances on its last possession, Zisis came up with the ball and a chance to finish what he started, but his running triple hit the front of the rim and fell out, keeping the first Top 16 victory of Group G in Istanbul.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011