Efes cruises past Zalgiris for seven straight
Anadolu Efes Istanbul continued its fabulous form by brushing aside Zalgiris Kaunas 89-62 in Istanbul on Friday. Efes, which has now won seven straight, made a blistering start to take a double-digit lead inside the first quarter. That advantage exceeded 20 early in the second and Zalgiris never got close. Shane Larkin led the way with 18 points, while backcourt teammates Vasilije Micic (17) and Rodrigue Beaubois (12) also shone. Sertac Sanli scored 12 and Krunoslav Simon added 11. Thomas Walkup paced Zalgiris with 15 points and 8 assists, Marius Grigonis netted 14 and Augustine Rubit paired 13 points with 8 rebounds. Efes improves to 18-10 while Zalgiris remains outside the playoffs places at 15-14.
Joffrey Lauvergne struck first but 5 points from Beaubois sent Efes in front and a mid-range strike from Micic made it 7-4. Sanli hit inside and then outside, before Micic’s three-pointer followed by Adrien Moerman under the basket stretched the lead to 17-8. Lauvergne rescued Zalgiris with a pair of long twos, but another Micic triple and Sanli’s dunk helped make it 26-12 at the end of the first. Larkin and Chris Singleton opened the second quarter with three-pointers for a 20-point lead, and 4 points from Larkin completed a 17-0 run which was finally ended by Walkup’s driving layup. Rubit added 4 fast points to give Zalgiris hope at 36-18, but Micic and Singleton took the lead back above 20. Grigonis and Simon traded triples, before Walkup and Paulius Jankunas pulled the visitors a little closer. But Larkin had the last word of the first half from deep, and it was 49-28 at the break.
Nigel Hayes banked in the opening basket of the second half and Grigonis added a three-pointer, but Simon reignited Efes from the corner and Moerman added a fastbreak layup. Sanli scored twice inside before Larkin and Grigonis both struck twice from beyond the arc for a 64-43 Efes lead. Beaubois scored 4 fast points and Micic added a three-point play to make it 73-45, before Walkup and Beaubois hit from deep and it was 76-48 with ten minutes remaining. James Anderson opened the final frame with a pair of deep hits, but 5 points from Rubit stopped the lead from growing further. The pace of scoring slowed at both ends in the final few minutes, with the outcome already way beyond any doubt.
Early Efes excellence sets the tone
Efes made an early statement of intent by converting its first seven field goal attempts – 4-of-4 from two-point range and 3-of-3 from outside – and didn’t miss a shot until nearly six minutes had been played. Soon after that Krunoslav Simon netted his first basket to ensure that every Efes started had scored inside the opening seven minutes. Efes finished with great shooting percentages of 69.6% from two-point range and 44.1% from deep.
Hosts flex defensive muscles
The home team didn’t only produce offensive brilliance: Efes was also outstanding on defense, holding Zalgiris to zero points for more than six minutes to bridge the first and second quarters. That phase of play effectively decided the outcome as Efes increased its lead from 19-12 to 36-12, and there was no way back for the visitors.
Early shooting problems hinder Zalgiris
Zalgiris didn’t help its cause by missing its first 6 three-pointers, before Marius Grigonis finally hit one 3 minutes before the break. The visitors gradually improved its scoring but the game had already become a mismatch.
Efes has a tough trip to fellow top four hopefuls FC Bayern Munich next Friday, while Zalgiris has another journey to Istanbul to face Fenerbahce on Thursday.
Friday, March 12, 2021