Fenerbahce rallies past cross-town rival Efes to stay perfect!
Fenerbahce Istanbul remained the Top 16's sole unbeaten team by rallying on the road against cross-town rival Anadolu Efes Istanbul to win a 73-77 war of wills on Friday. Fenerbahce is now 6-0 and two victories ahead of any team in Group E, while Efes fell to 3-3 and a third-place tie with Panathinaikos Athens and Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade. Efes had led on the scoreboard from the middle of the second quarter til the start of the fourth, with its advantage reaching a high of 9 points for the last time at 54-45 late in the third. That's when Melih Mahmutoglu entered and changed the game for the visitors, hitting 4 three-pointers in the last 11 minutes, including the victory-clincher heading into the final minute. Mahmutoglu finished with 14 points in 16 minutes, one behind Fenerbahce's leading scorers, Ekpe Udoh and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Bobby Dixon added 11 for the winners, who registered 7 blocks, including 3 by Udoh. Efes had an inspiration first half by Cedi Osman, who had all of 15 points in two torrid streaks. He was matched in scoring by Dario Saric, but coincidentally, both had end-of-quarter three-pointers discounted as being just late for the buzzer. The Fenerbahce defense held Efes to poor shooting, 43% on two-pointers and 35% from downtown, but the hosts hurt themselves with by making just 60%, 12 for 20, at the foul line. Fenerbahce pulled off the comeback without the services of Kostas Sloukas and Pero Antic, who did not play due to injuries.
FIRST QUARTER: Osman sparks Efes takeover
Luigi Datome hit a jumper from the lane and fed Bogdanovic for a triple as Fenerbahce jumped in front 2-5. Jon Diebler hit a turnaround for the hosts' first points and then fed Bryant Dunston for the next basket, a dunk. After Udoh's free throw, Saric buried Efes's three-pointer for its first lead, too, 7-6. Dixon took it back with a gutsy layup, but Diebler fired from deep before Udoh dropped a one-hander for a 10-10 tie. Dunston hustled for one offensive rebound to put Efes ahead, and Jan Vesely did the same at the other end to make it 12-12. Dixon's jumper put the visitors up and Bogdanovic's baseline turnaround made it 12-16 before Saric drove hard and scored a basket for Efes. Osman forced a tie with a coast-to-coast layup, but was far from finished. He hustled down a shot of his that was blocked, hit a layup in traffic and the free throw that came with it fouled to put Efes back in front. Then Thomas Heurtel stole and sent Osman ahead for a dunk at 21-16. Udoh got 2 back on a jumper, but even though Osman's half-court shot was ruled late for the buzzer, he still had Efes in charge, 21-18, after 10 minutes.
SECOND QUARTER: Osman returns, Efes rises
Alex Tyus pushed Efes up by 23-18 to open the second quarter, but a jumper by Udoh and 3 points by Datome tied it up before Berk Ugurlu drove for a new Fenerbahce lead, 23-25. Derrick Brown tied it up with his first 2 points, from mid-range, before Tyus made 1 of 2 free throws for a new Efes lead, 26-25. That only lasted until Udoh powered back an offensive rebound and made the steal that led to Dixon scoring on a fastbreak at 26-29. But Osman was back on the court and ready to rock. His first three-pointer from the corner tied it up and his second, on the next play, put Efes back in front, 32-29. Then he streaked in to collect a blocked shot and score, forcing a Fenerbahce timeout at 34-29. Dixon scored a layup to steady Efes, but that was matched by free throws from Birkan Batuk. And when Saric drilled his own triple from the corner, Efes had its biggest lead, 39-31. Ricky Hickman found a drop shot in the lane for Fenerbahce, but Dogus Balbay stole for Efes and hit a reverse before Dixon matched him to make it a 41-35 scoreboard in favor of Efes at the half.
THIRD QUARTER: Fenerbahce, back from the brink
Heurtel drilled his first points of the night from downtown to match the high lead, 44-35 for Efes. Bogdanovic fed Udoh for an easy layup. Udoh was back with a soaring dunk that Tyus matched with a put-back of his own miss at the other end. When Bogdanovic drilled an open triple, Fenerbahce was within 46-42, but Tyus answered with a nifty layup. Udoh stole and hit 1 of 2 free throws for the visitors before Datome and Tyus exchanged free throws at 50-45. The Efes defense kept forcing Fenerbahce misses, one of which Brown took coast to coast for a layup between two defenders. When Heurtel scored on a drive, too, Efes had matched its best lead, 54-45. Bogdanovic ended almost 4 scoreless minutes for Fenerbahce with 2 perfect free throws then drove for a basket and another foul shot to suddenly make it 54-50. At the other end, Jayson Granger fed Dunston for a high-flying slam, but Vesely matched those points inside for Fenerbahce before a free throw by Granger made it 57-52. Fenerbahce had the last say, however, with Mahmutoglu hitting a triple on the move to cut the difference to 57-55 after 30 minutes.
FOURTH QUARTER: Mahmutoglu becomes the hero!
Mahmutoglu picked up where he left off, firing in a catch-and-shoot, go-ahead triple for Fenerbahce to open the final quarter. Dunston hit 1 of 2 free throws to tie, but Vesely dunked off an inbounds pass to keep Fenerbahce on top, 58-60. Out of a timeout, Granger banked in a layup for his first field goal, but at the other end, Nikola Kalinic did the same for Fenerbahce at 60-62. Bogdanovic made a strong drive to lengthen the lead. Saric evened things at 64-64 with a jumper. After a Fenerbahce timeout, Mahmutoglu darted through the Efes defense for a layup and then, after missing a three from the right wing, buried one from the left. Heurtel drew Veseley’s fourth foul and sank 2 free throws to bring Efes within 3 with 4 minutes to go. Kalinic backed down Osman and used a spin move for a layup and a 66-71 advantage for Fenerbahce. Brown turned an offensive rebound into 2 free throws and played a superb two-man game with Granger for a slam that cut the deficit to 1 point, 70-71. Fenerbahce called timeout, but Vesely fouled out on a moving pick violation. Still, Dixon weaved his way through the Efes defense for a foul-line jumper and a 70-73 lead with 2 minutes remaining. Udoh went for a slam, drew a foul from Brown and split free throws to make it a two-possession game. Dunston missed twice from the line at the other end and Mahmutoglu drilled a three that all but iced the game. Down 7 with a minute to go, Efes called timeout to regroup, but great defense by Dixon and Bogdanovic denied the hosts and clinched another Fenerbahce win.
Friday, February 5, 2016