Despite missing three of its key regulars and playing on the road in Istanbul, Real Madrid managed to keep its hopes alive in Group F by hanging on for dear life to a 63-67 victory over Efes Pilsen on Thursday. It took a three-pointer by Lucio Angulo in the final minute for the visitors to reclaim a game they had led since late in the first quarter. Alberto Herreros sealed it with two late free throws, leading Madrid with 17 points in the absence of starters Sasha Djordjevic, Dragan Tarlac and Eric Streulens, all of whom were injured. A 14-0 run that bridged the first two quarters put the visitors in control, but their nine-point lead with 5 minutes left to play came under attack by Efes. A Marcus Brown three-pointer ingnited a 10-0 run that Kaspars Kambala completed with a free throw that gave Efes the lead, 62-61, with just under a minute to play. Angulo's big shot came on the next possession, however, and Madrid was on its way to a 1-1 record. Dusan Vukcevic added 12 points, Angulo 11 and Zan Tabak 10 for the winners. Efes, which falls to 0-2 in Group F, was led by Kambala with 23 points and Brown with 16.
The game got off to an even start dominated by the scoring of two players, Kambala on the inside for Efes and Herreros inside and out for Madrid. A pair of Kambala free throws gave Efes its first decent lead at 11-7, but soon Herreros came up with a three-pointer and a driving dunk to reach 10 points himself and to pull Madrid within 15-14. Kambala answered with his own monster dunk, bringing him up to 9. A pair of free throws by Brown gave Efes its biggest lead at 20-14. Right there, however, with two minutes left in the quarter, Madrid stopped its slide. First, young center Eduardo Hernandez turned a loose ball into a three-point play. Then, on the quarter's final play, Vukcevic made one free throw, missed the next, but put his own rebound back to tie the score at 20-20 after 10 minutes.
Madrid capitalized on its first-quarter finish to take full control in the second. After two scoreless minutes, Herreros drained another three and Hernandez followed with another layup. When Vukcevic put in his first three, Madrid had a 14-0 run and Efes seemed in trouble, down 20-28. Madrid had bottled up the inside where Kambala had been successful early, so now Efes looked to its outside ace, Brown, and boy did he respond. His first three-pointer stopped the skid, his second one pulled Efes within 28-30, and his third one limited the damage of another Madrid push. Mehmet Okur joined Brown with a downtown shot that kept the home team within 34-38, but Madrid finished off the half with three foul shots and a 34-42 lead. The key stat then was on the boards, where Madrid was ahead 9-19 despite being short on big men.
Real Madrid kept controlling the match in the third quarter too. Tabak was very affective on both defensive and offensive rebounds. Defense was the issue again as the two teams forced each other to share a pair of baskets through the first five minutes of the quarter. Lucio Angulo gave Madrid its biggest lead thus far at 36-45. Efes struggled to reduce the difference to 5 points, 47-52, on a three-pointer by Kerem Tunceri. Kambala scored the last three points for Efes, but a nice drive by Vukcevic let Madrid enjoy a 50-56 cushion after 30 minutes.
Just as at the beginning of the second and third quarters, Efes could not buy a basket to start the fourth. The home team went 4 full minutes without a point, and when Stefano Attruia canned a three-pointer for Madrid almost halfway through the quarter, the lead stood at 52-61. Suddenly, as the five-minute countdown began, Efes seemed to find itself. Again, Brown tripped the ignition switch with a three-pointer. Kambala followed with a post-up basket, then collected Brown's three-point miss and dunked it. The deficit was down to just 2 points, 59-61. With just over 2 minutes left, Alper Yilmaz stole the ball on the defensive end and finished a fastbreak to tie it 61-61. After a minute full of misses, Kambala was at the line with 55 seconds left, making 1 of 2 free throws for a 62-61 lead, the first in more than 30 minutes for the home team. And the last. On the next possession, Angulo drove, dished off precariously, then raced out to the three-point line. Tabak passed out there and Angulo banged the shot in for a 62-64 Madrid edge with 39 seconds to go. After a Kambala miss, Tabak added one free throw and Herreros two to end it in favor of the visitors, who have two weeks now to recover from their various injuries and challenge in Group F.
Thursday, March 7, 2002