Behind by double digits in the second half before 8,000 or more Efes Pilsen fans at Abdi Ipekci Sports Hall in Istanbul usually means defeat for any guest. But on Thursday the guest was Kinder Bologna and that meant a killer comeback that ended as a thrilling 73-76 opening victory for the defending champs in Group F of the Top 16. Down 11 halfway through the third quarter, Kinder went on 6-29 run that lasted 10 minutes and put the visitors ahead by 12. Though slightly stunned, Efes rallied in the final minutes before time ran out on its counter-comeback. Emanuel Ginobili paced Kinder to victory with 21 points, while Alessandro Frosini added 18, David Andersen 11 and Matjaz Smodis 10. Omer Onan led the locals with 19 points, while Marcus Brown threw down 15 and Kaspars Kambala 14. Kinder is now 1-0 in Group F and Efes 0-1.
Kinder started the game very fast and with two baskets by Frosini, one by Ginobili and a three-pointer by Marko Jaric took an 0-9 lead in just 2 minutes. Efes woke up from its sleep with consecutive three-pointers by Brown and Saulius Stombergas that kept Kinder from escaping. More importantly, Efes started tightening its defense, especially inside against Frosini, at the same time that Kinder started letting the home team's deep shooters get free. Another three-pointer by Brown pulled Efes within 19-20 in the final minute and then Kerem Tunceri finished off the quarter with his own downtown shot, giving the home team both confidence and the lead, 22-20, after 10 minutes.
The scoring race of the first quarter turned into a defensive battle in the second, but not before Brown could hit his third three-pointer in as many tries for a 25-21 Efes advantage. Kinder kept on the heels of Efes with Ginobili, David Andersen and Davide Bonora getting baskets as the score narrowed to 29-28. The substitution of big man Kaya Peker for Mehmet Okur helped Efes to be maintain its toughness inside by dominating the boards. By the end of the half, Efes had 16 rebounds to 10 for Kinder, and Peker accounted for 7 himself. A pair of Kinder turnovers finished off by two Onan free throws gave Efes its biggest lead at 35-29, but Ginobili answered with an inside drive to set the scoreboard at 35-31 for the half. Brown was up to 12 points and Ginobili 10 at that juncture.
Full of confidence now, Efes started the second half as Kinder had started the first. Peker took the rebonds and the duo of Tunceri and Onan ended them with the fastbreak points. A basket by Onan completed a 9-4 run to start the third quarter with Efes leading 44-35. Kinder seemed to be a bit surprised about the sureness with which Efes was playing and turned to a zone defense in the 24th minute. Shortly thereafter, however, Kambala scored inside for an 11-point Efes lead, 48-37. The Kinder zone started paying dividends now as Matjaz Smodis came up with a basket and a three-pointer in succession to chop the deficit all the way down to 51-47. By the time Davide Bonora drove for a layup with 5 seconds left in the quarter, Kinder had mounted a 2-11 run and the Efes lead stood at a single basket, 53-51.
Kinder missed its initial chance to take the lead at the beginning of the last quarter, but it would not miss any others. Ginobili tied it at 53-53 and then Frosini did the honors of putting the guests ahead 53-55, their first lead in more than two quarters. The lead continued to climb, to 53-60 on another basket by Frosini and finally to a high of 54-66 on a Jaric three-pointer with 6 minutes remaining. A single free throw by Peker was all that Efes had scored in the first four minutes of the quarter. After a timeout, Efes started applying zone pressure to reduce the differance. That led to a 9-3 run capped by Brown's fourth three-pointer, pulling the hosts within 63-69 with almost 3 minutes left. From that point, however, free throws by Smodis, Ginobili and Andersen helped Kinder control the game. Efes could only cut the all-important margin to three on a three-pointer by Onan that ended the game 73-76.
Thursday, February 28, 2002