Efes Pilsen confirmed itself as one of the unsung teams of the Top 16 as it ambushed Real Madrid in Spain for a 92-109 on Thursday in the last game of the Euroleague season for both teams. The victory allowed Efes to tie Madrid with a 3-3 record an take second place in the Group F final standings due to a point difference in the two games against the Spanish side. Since Kinder Bologna had locked up the Group F berth to the Final Four last week, Efes and Madrid played something of a carefree game. But the distinction of finishing behind Kinder - or in Madrid's case, the prospect of finishing tied on record with the defending Euroleague champs - propelled both teams through four quarters. Efes took advantage of Madrid's continuing injury troubles to post its second road win of the Top 16. Marcus Brown led the visitors with 24 points. Kaspars Kambala and Saulius Stombergas each posted 18, Omar Onan 17 and Mehmet Okur 14 for Efes. Alberto Herreros had a game-high 25 points which included 7 shots made of the 10 he attempted from downtown. Sasha Djordjevic added 15 and Dusan Vukcevic 14 for Madrid.
In a game without meaning for the final standings, anything can happen. And the first quarter of this one was filled with spectacular plays on both sides, that at least, amused the few fans that had gathered at the Raimundo Saporta arena. Efes began rolling to a quick 0-4 run but Kaspars Kambala saw how he was called for his second foul in the following play. Real Madrid tried hard to hit Efes' basket but missed two dunks and received a block in the same play, until in the fourth attempt, Edu Hernandez sank down the ball for 4-4. Efes was always in the lead by 3 or 4 points, while Alberto Herreros was the one that kept the Whites in the game through threes, and his second made it 21-25 with 2 minutes to go. At the end of the first quarter, Efes was leading by 4 thanks to its collective game, 25-29.
The second period started with 5 straight points for the hosts through a lay-up by Eric Struelens and the first three of the night for Djordjevic, to jump ahead 30-29. After a few plays where Madrid managed to keep the lead, Marcus Brown hit a three good for Efes to take the lead again at 43-44. The game was fast, with constant fast breaks on both sides and all the static offensive plays were sealed with long-range shots, sometimes by Djordjevic, who ended the first half with 4 of 4 threes or sometimes by Stefano Attruia for the hosts, while for Efes it was Ender Arslan with two straight threes to put his team ahead again, 48-50, or Brown, with another three on the buzzer for 54-57, that kept the pace for the guests.
Over the first two minutes after the break the teams exchanged baskets and Efes still hung onto a slim lead at 60-63, but then Efes began to run. They converted numerous Madrdi turnovers into easy layups, and crashed the board after every Madrid shot that missed. Efes rattled off 11-straight points before Herreros stopped the onslaught with a three, but it was too late as the damage had been done and Efes led 63-76. In the 26th minute, Djordjevic was called for an offensive foul as he was driving to the lane, anger couple with built-up frustration caused him to kick the ball into the stands, amounting to a technical, and then he proceeded to yell at the refs, resulting in his ejection. Brown sank the ensuing free throws as the quarter wound down, Efes had a commanding 67-83 advantage.
The fourth quarter did not see pretty basketball from either side. Both teams ran as in the first period, but the last 10 minutes were rife with turnovers, missed layups, and poor shooting. Efes utilized a variety of players to put points on the board and extend their lead to as much as 21 points midway through the period. kombala and Stombergas led the Efes to a 76-97 lead that would prove to be the largest margin of the game. Herreros caught fire late in the period hitting consecutive threes that did little more than bring Efes lead under 20 points. Efes was too dominant and Madrid did not show the necessary effort to get back in the game. A couple of final threes by both teams sealed the guests' victory and the 2001-2002 Euroleague season for the teams.
Wednesday, April 17, 2002