Granger leads Efes rally on the road in Malaga!
A riveting fight for an upper hand in Group E produced 22 lead changes and 10 ties before Jayson Granger led Anadolu Efes Istanbul to rally past Unicaja Malaga 75-85 on the road Friday. Efes improved to 3-2 as part of a three-way tie for second place with Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade. Unicaja dropped to fourth place at 2-3. Unicaja led 59-50 midway through the third quarter before Granger's three-pointer started Efes back and the visitors' defense held the hosts scoreless in the game's last 5 minutes to win going away. Granger had 12 of his game-high 22 points during the comeback. Jon Diebler added 16 points, including 5 in the final 35 seconds, for the winners, while Cedi Osman scored 10. Those three players had 10 of the visitors' 12 three-pointers, as compared to just 7 for Unicaja. Efes withstood having fewer defensive rebounds (18) than Unicaja had on offense (19) and losing the rebounding war 41-29 overall. Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Richard Hendrix scored 16 each for Unicaja, while DeMarcus Nelson added 11 and Carlos Suarez 10.
FIRST QUARTER: Back and forth they go!
Kuzminskas made a give-and-go dunk to open the scoring, but Bryant Dunston bettered him at the other end with a basket-plus-free throw combination at 2-3. The lead changed hands as Kuzminskas put back an offensive rebound and Granger drove for a layup. Osman stole and broke away to put Efes up 4-7, but Hendrix responded with back-to-back baskets for Unicaja. Osman hit the game's first triple as Efes led 8-10. Layups by Nelson and Edwin Jackson for Malaga were offset by those of Granger and Osman for Efes as the score kept climbing. Hendrix scored in close for a 14-14 tie that Granger broke by making 1 of 2 free throws. Suarez hit the floor and tipped in a miss for Unicaja, but that lead lasted only until Granger's triple made it 16-18. Nelson got those 3 points back with a shot from the corner at 19-18, but Diebler answered in kind for Efes. Kuzminskas tied it again at the foul line before Alberto Diaz came off Unicaja's bench and hit a running one-hander with 4 seconds left for the 10th lead change in the quarter and a 23-21 edge for the home team.
SECOND QUARTER: Unicaja one step ahead
Diaz started the new quarter with a clean triple from the wing that Derrick Brown answered with a baseline jumper at 26-23. Jackson drove from the corner for a two-hand slam but Dario Saric fed Birkan Batuk at the other end for a triple. Saric then got 3 points the hard way on a monster offensive rebound to seize a new lead for Efes, 28-29. It changed hands on a Diaz-to-Suarez backdoor layup and on a triple from Thomas Heurtel. Nemanja Nedovic tied it twice, with free throws and on a goal-tended reverse layup on either side of a jump shot by Saric. Brown's free throws were answered by Nedovic speeding coast to coast for another tie, 36-36. Out of a timeout, Hendrix scored inside before Dani Diez drilled a three-pointer for a 41-36 advantage for the hosts. Alex Tyus scored 2 in close for Efes that Suarez matched at the free throw line. Diebler hit a tough baseline runner but Hendrix hit his own between two defenders. Granger hit an acrobatic layup, and though he missed the accompanying free throw, the rebound turned into a game-tying corner triple by Diebler at 45-45. Brown's 1 of 2 free throws meant another lead change, however Nelson put back his own miss as Unicaja went ahead again, 47-46, at the half.
THIRD QUARTER: Granger leads Efes rally
Will Thomas powered up his first basket for the hosts and Kuzminskas buried a second-chance triple as Unicaja quickly built a 52-46 advantage. Heurtel landed a long two-pointer for Efes, but Kuzminskas was back with a longer three-pointer at 55-48. Heurtel and Nelson traded baskets, then Thomas fed Hendrix for a reverse to make it 59-50, the biggest lead for Unicaja. Granger steadied Efes with a big triple, then Osman followed him from even deeper to suddenly make it close again, 59-56. Hendrix returned yet another offensive rebound through the basket, but Granger stepped back and drilled another three at 61-59. Kuzminskas changed hands for a nifty layup before Brown tipped in an Efes miss to keep it close, 63-61. Tyus appeared with a block at one end and a game-tying put-back at the other before Granger drove strong and made the and-one foul shot to put Efes in front again, 63-66. Suarez came on and answered from the arc for Unicaja to tie 66-66, which is how the score stood after 30 electric minutes.
FOURTH QUARTER: Efes defense rides to victory!
Granged busted a triple to open the final quarter, while Kuzminskas stormed from the corner to dunk for Unicaja at 68-69. Nedovic's free throws put Unicaja ahead, but Dogus Balbay took it back with a driving layup for Efes. Suarez flipped the scoreboard again with a smooth triple, but Diebler appeared at the other end for his third strike from long range. When Heurtel led Brown with a pass for a two-hand slam, Efes had a 73-76 lead. Nelson made a tough layup drop to get Unicaja close, but after a timeout, Saric drilled an inbounds jumper to make it 75-78 with 4:35 to play. A tense, scoreless 2 minutes and 30 seconds passed before Hendrix was hurt at one end and Unicaja forced to foul Bryant Dunston at the other. He made 2 of 2 free throws to lift Efes ahead 75-80 with 2 minutes left. Every Unicaja shot attempt missed before Diebler stepped forward with a clutch two-pointer near the end of the shot clock with 36 seconds left. He was back before the finish with his fourth three-point strike, giving Efes the game's highest lead as the final score to take home to Istanbul.
Friday, January 29, 2016