Micic helps Efes beat Barcelona in opener
Anadolu Efes Istanbul jumped out to a 1-0 lead in its best-of-five playoff series against FC Barcelona Lassa thanks to a 75-68 victory on Wednesday at Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul. Vasilije Micic starred with 21 points on 4-of-5 three-point shooting plus 7 assists to pace the winners, who host Game 2 on Friday. Efes led from start to finish after racing out to a 9-2 start and grabbing a double-digit lead inside of 5 minutes. Barcelona never threw in the towel and closed the gap to 5 in the finals minutes, but Efes held on for the win. Adrien Moerman and Shane Larkin added 12 points apiece for the winners and Bryant Dunston contributed 11 points and 3 blocks. Ante Tomic paced Barcelona with 14 points and Kevin Pangos and Thomas Heurtel scored 12 each.
Efes scored on its first four possessions – during which Micic delivered 3 assists – to take a 9-2 lead. Micic and Moerman buried back-to-back three-pointers as the hosts claimed a double-digit advantage, 15-4. Barcelona tried to get going with second-chance baskets from Tomic and Jaka Blazic, but James Anderson became the fourth Efes player to sink a three as the hosts continued to roll. Rodrigue Beaubois's pull-up jumper made it 26-15 after 10 minutes. Barcelona scored the first 4 points of the second quarter through offensive rebounds before Pangos's fastbreak layup closed the gap to 5 points. Pangos drained a triple to make it 28-26, which prompted an Efes timeout. Rolands Smits completed the Barcelona comeback with a three that made it 32-32. Efes regained control with back-to-back threes by Tibor Pleiss and Micic. Tomic kept Barcelona close, 40-36, at halftime.
The teams traded shots in the opening minutes of the second half. Dunston was inadvertently struck in the face by Chris Singleton and left the game. Nonetheless, Moerman hit from deep as Efes stretched its lead to 50-44. When Dunston returned, he connected from downtown to put Efes up by 9. The center stamped his memory on the game with a dunk-plus-foul at one end and a block at the other to restore a double-digit advantage. Victor Claver's slam made it 58-49 at the end of the third quarter. Smits opened the fourth with a wicked dunk, but a pair of Larkin triples kept Efes comfortably ahead. Micic converted a three-point play that gave the hosts a 69-57 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Barcelona turned up the pressure and Hanga's three-pointer capped a 0-7 run that brought the visitors within 71-66 with 2 minutes to play. However, Barcelona missed its next 3 shots – including one by Singleton that Dunston blocked at the rim – and Efes sealed the win thanks to a three-point play by Micic.
Vasilije Micic was there early, late and in between for Efes. The guard had 3 assists as Efes jumped out to a 9-2 start before sinking a three-pointer. When Barcelona closed the gap to 5 late, Micic again stepped up, this time with a reverse layup-plus-foul that all but ut the game on ice. For the game, he not only led the winning attack with 21 points on 4-of-5 three-point shooting plus 7 assists, but his performance index rating of 30 was a career best. Is there any better time for a career-high PIR than Game 1 of the playoffs?
Entering this game, Bryant Dunston had made as many three-pointers in his EuroLeague career as he had won EuroLeague Best Defender awards. That changed in the third quarter when he struck from downtown to put Efes ahead 53-44. Dunston had stumbled off the court early in that quarter after he was inadvertently struck in the face by Chris Singleton. Upon his return, Dunston lifted his teammates not only with the three, but also with a dunk-plus-foul and a block as Efes restored a double-digit advantage.
Barcelona struggled early, but got back into the game with strong offensive rebounds. The visitors amassed 16 second-chance points from 9 offensive boards in the first half alone. Efes showed up its rebounding game at halftime and allowed only 6 offensive rebounds and 2 second-chance points the rest of the way.
Playoff pressure affects free throws
The playoff pressure affected some of the league's best free throw shooters in this game. Rodrigue Beaubois had made 26 consecutive free throws in EuroLeague games before this contest and was tied for fourth in the league in free-throw accuracy (94.0%) when he stepped to the line in the third quarter following a technical foul on a Barcelona player. He missed. That came not long after Kevin Pangos missed a free throw after a technical foul on the Efes bench. And in the fourth quarter, Adam Hanga's streak of 18 straight free throws died as he missed twice!
Wednesday, April 17, 2019