Efes holds off Zvezda fightback to win again
Anadolu Efes Istanbul held off Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, winning an ultimately exciting game 78-85 at Stark Arena to secure its seventh consecutive victory and maintain a three-game lead at the top of the standings. Efes dominated the first half, scoring the opening 11 points of the game and then using a 0-12 run to move further clear in the second quarter, leading by more than 20 for long periods. Zvezda rallied after the break and came back to within 6 points in the final stages, but it was too late as Efes held on. Shane Larkin once again led the way, netting 5 triples in his game-high total of 24 points. Chris Singleton combined 13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals, while Rodrigue Beaubois netted 11 points. Dejan Davidovac led Zvezda with 15 points, Vladimir Stimac and Billy Baron both scored 14 and Kevin Punter netted 12. Efes improves to 19-3, while Zvezda drops to 9-13 after its fourth straight loss.
A steal and slam by Singleton and a transition triple from Larkin opened the scoring, and Zvezda went the four minutes without scoring as from Singleton and James Anderson made it 0-11. Lorenzo Brown netted the host’s first basket from mid-range, and Baron struck from deep before Ognjen Dobric completed a 7-0 run for a 9-13 score. Larkin reignited Efes with a four-point play and another triple. Dobric’s triple was answered by Singleton’s fastbreak dunk, and the first quarter ended 16-24. Beaubois restored Efes’s double-digit lead with a triple and a floater, before a transition layup by Dogus Balbay and another Singleton triple made it 16-34. Michael Ojo’s free throws snapped the run, but Beaubois again struck to take the lead past 20. James Gist dunked but Larkin bettered it with another three-pointer. Five fast points from Davidovac and Baron’s threeball made it closer, but Beaubois’s step-back three made it 30-51 at the break. The second half started with a fancy layup from Larkin and Singleton’s third triple, but Stimac battled for a trio of tough scores at the other end. Vasilije Micic also scored three times from close range, but Davidovac and Brown netted from deep to keep the margin around 20. Five straight points from Baron helped make it 56-69 after a 7-0 run. Larkin got Efes moving again, and it was 58-72 after three quarters. Baron’s steal and score opened the fourth, but Alec Peters answered from long-range before Micic and Tibor Pleiss scored at the rim to give Efes fresh air. Punter’s deep three lifted Zvezda, and the scoring slowed before Punter’s free throws made it 69-79 with 2:30 left. A tough layup from Ojo gave the host fresh hope, and Krunoslav Simon’s triple was cancelled out by Punter for 74-82. Then Punter slammed with 1 minute left, but Efes held firm and a free throw from Simon followed by a Zvezda turnover clinched the win.
Singleton’s fast start
Chris Singleton propelled Efes’s fast start to the game, grabbing two steals to tee up his team’s opening two baskets – the first of which he also finished with a dunk. Then Singleton hit a triple, meaning that he had scored two of his team’s first three baskets, assisted the other and compiled a PIR of 7 in just three minutes.
Larkin does it again
Shane Larkin stunned the Stark Arena by missing his first shot of the night…but normal service soon resumed. The sharpshooter hit three triples in the first quarter and raced to 15 points by half-time. He finished with a game-high 24 points despite not scoring in the last quarter.
Punter gives Zvezda hope
Zvezda’s recently signed scoring specialist Kevin Punter headed into the final quarter with zero points to his name, but the former Olympiacos man put that right by scoring all the points in a 7-0 run to give his team hope. He added two more scores to set up a grandstand finish, and ended by scoring all 12 of his points in the final quarter.
Efes begins the double round week by staying on the road for a mammoth showdown with CSKA Moscow in a rematch of last season’s Championship Game on Tuesday. Zvezda hosts Panathinaikos OPAP Athens the following night.
Friday, January 31, 2020