Larkin, Efes survive thriller in Barcelona
Anadolu Efes Istanbul grabbed its eighth road win of the season by downing FC Barcelona 82-86 at Palau Blaugrana on Friday night. Efes entered the last quarter leading 58-66, but a 14-0 run behind 3 consecutive three-pointers by Barca's Kyle Kuric turned the game upside down. A late rally by the visitors, sparked by successive triples from Alec Peters, Shane Larkin and Chris Singleton, allowed Efes to escape with a valuable win and remain atop of the standings with a 15-3 record, tied with Real Madrid. FC Barcelona dropped to 13-5 and third place. Efes was led by Larkin, who posted 26 points on 9-for-9 free-throw shooting, 5 assists and 5 boards for 35 performance index rating. Chris Singleton had a season-high 17 points on 3-for-3 three-point shooting, including a key one to make it 79-82 entering the last minute, against his former team. Krunoslav Simon added 10 points for Efes Brandon Davies scored 20 points for the losers, 16 of them in the third quarter. He was followed by Malcolm Delaney, Nikola Mirotic and Kuric, with 15, 14 and 11 points, respectively.
Larkin needed less than a minute to give Efes a 0-5 lead with a pull-up jumper, a steal and a three-point play. Barcelona looked cold, while Efes seemed the opposite. Tibor Pleiss and Simon combined for 9 points to which Larkin added his first three-pointer by Larkin for a 7-17 scoreboard. Victor Claver and Delaney gave Barca fresh air at 12-17 but Singleton's 5 points in a row aborted the charge. Delaney sparked a 7-0 run that got Barcelona back into the game, although an alley-oop dunk by Sertac Sanli closed the first period with Efes ahead 19-24. Pierre Oriola and Davies soon brought Barca to within 23-26, but Efes responded quickly through Sanli, who followed his first EuroLeague three-pointer ever with a jumper at 23-31. After Barcelona's timeout, Delaney nailed a trio of triples to put the hosts ahead 32-31 and raise the fans to their feet. The joy didn't last long, though, as Larkin returned to sink free throws and a jumper before assisting Simon's triple to cap 3-12 run to at 35-43. Barcelona had the first half's last word, however, as Pau Ribas hit a triple and a jumper before assisting on a buzzer-beater by Cory Higgins to close the first half at 42-45. Both teams increased their defensive intensity after the break, when Brandon Davies became Barcelona's go-to guy, with 8 points in a row. Efes resisted with treys by James Anderson and Singleton to keep a 50-51 edge midway through the third period. Larkin reemerged with a fastbreak triple that Adrien Moerman copied at 50-57. Davies kept rocking alone, with all 16 of Barca's third-quarter points, but it was not enough. Efes found Rodrigue Beaubois from deep and Moerman inside to make it 58-66 after 30 minutes. The atmosphere got hotter when Barcelona finally found its momentum in the fourth quarter. Mirotic opened fire with a powerful dunk, then Kyle Kuric scored a fastbreak layup before Efes head coach Ergin Ataman was called for a technical foul. Kuric soon poured in 3 consecutive three-pointers, filling most of an incredible 14-0 run in less than 5 minutes that turned the game upside down. Things got even worse for the visitors when Ataman was called for his second technical foul and ejected. Meanwhile, Mirotic struck from deep to make it 75-68. It wasn't over, though, as a straight-on three-pointer by Larkin got Efes within 77-75 with less than 3 minutes remaining. Alec Peters came off the visitors' bench with a free throw and a big three-pointer to tie the game. Singleton followed with a difficult long-range shot that put Efes in front, 79-82, entering the last minute. Even though Mirotic responded from deep to tie it again, Larkin took over from the free throw line to finish the comeback and seal the outcome.
No Micic, more Larkin
Anadolu Efes faced the game with the last-minute absence of Vasilje Micic, who was injured. That required an extra effort from his teammate Shane Larkin, who played a season-high 37 minutes, 16 seconds, and ended up becoming the best performer of the game with a PIR of 35, not to mention the key free throws in the final minute.
Anadolu's head coach Ergin Ataman couldn't finish the game as he was called for two technical fouls, both during the 0-14 run that brought Barcelona back in front in the last period. Nonetheless, Efes reacted well and managed to score 20 points in the final 5 minutes after the ejection to seal the win.
Did you notice?
Brandon Davies was the only player capable to contribute for FC Barcelona in the third quarter. All of his team's points (16) during that period came from his hands. Not enough, though, to help his team win.
In Round 19 next week FC Barcelona will visit Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv on Tuesday, January 14. Anadolu Efes Istanbul will come home to host AX Armani Exchange Milan the same day.
Friday, January 10, 2020