Efes edges Real to take series
Anadolu Efes Istanbul held off a feisty Real Madrid squad to clinch a spot at the 2021 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in Cologne, Germany. Efes won 88-83 on Tuesday at Sinan Erdem Sports Hall to take their best-of-five EuroLeague Playoffs series 3-2. The game was not decided until the final minute and featured six lead changes and five ties in the fourth quarter alone. Krunoslav Simon broke an 80-80 tie with a desperation three-pointer with 38.6 seconds remaining and after Sergio Llull missed from downtown on the next possession, Chris Singleton gathered the rebound, was fouled and made 2 free throws to all but clinch the victory. Singleton tied his career-high with 26 points and added 8 rebounds, Vasilije Micic scored 18 and dished 5 assists, Simon finished with 17 points and Shane Larkin scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter. Nicolas Laprovittola led the Real attack with 17 points, Trey Thompkins added 12 points and Jaycee Carroll and Llull scored 10 each.
Singleton, in his 200th career EuroLeague appearance, scored on Efes's first two possessions and Real's starting backcourt of Carlos Alocen and Carroll matched him. Efes had little trouble with Real's zone defense and a slam by Bryant Dunston made it 10-6. Threes by Alocen and Alberto Abalde helped Real to its first lead and an Alex Tyus slam made it 14-17. Walter Tavares came on for the first time since Game 1 and promptly grabbed a rebound on both ends, drew a foul and made free throws for an 18-21 edge after 10 minutes. Laprovittola and Singleton traded threes early in the second quarter. Then Rudy Fernandez and Simon did the same. A three by Micic gave the hosts a 29-27 edge. Thompkins heated up with a three-point play and a three-pointer as the visitors regained the lead 31-33. After Simon tied it, Llull beat the shot clock with a triple and Laprovittola added a three-point play to make it 33-39. After a three by Micic, Tavares's put-back gave Real a 36-41 halftime lead.
A three by Simon and free throws by Micic tied the game a little over a minute into the second half. After a three-point play by Carroll, Efes made its move. Micic and Rodrigue Beaubois each drained threes and Sertac Sanli scored twice in a 14-0 run that made it 55-44. Back-to-back threes by Thompkins got Real right back in it at 57-53. After a timeout, Singleton struck from deep, however free throws by Llull and Tavares trimmed the gap to 60-57 at the end of the third quarter. A three by Laprovittola and a dunk by Garuba tied the score at 62-62. Singleton and Shane Larkin made threes on consecutive possessions, but Garuba's put-back kept Real close and a three by Fernandez made it 68-69. Tibor Pleiss countered with a triple only to see Laprovittola end a three-chance Real possession with a three. The lead changed hands twice more on Larkin's free throws and Laprovittola's fifth three of the game. A hook shot by Pleiss tied it at 75-75 with 3 minutes to go. Larkin sent Efes ahead with a long three that prompted a Real timeout. Abalde's three from the top of the key tied it again. Simon beat the shot clock with a deep three with 38.6 remaining for an 83-80 advantage. Llull missed a three with 15 seconds left and Singleton hit a pair of free throws to make it a two-possession game and all but wrap up the game and series.
Efes used a different look from the start to attack the Real defenses with James Anderson and Chris Singleton starting for the first time all series, while Sertac Sanli, Krunoslav Simon and Adrien Moerman came off the bench for the first time. Real used the same starting lineup from its Game 4 victory: Carlos Alocen, Jaycee Carroll, Alberto Abalde, Usman Garuba and Alex Tyus.
Chris Singleton made his only start in the series and the 200th appearance of his EuroLeague career one to remember with one of his best-ever performances. Singleton tied a career-best with 26 points scored and set a career-high with a performance index rating of 38. He hardly left the floor, playing a game-high 37:25 minutes, and made 5 of 7 two-pointers, all 3 of his three-pointers and 7 of 8 free throws. Singleton also collected 8 rebounds, 1 steals and 1 block.
Tibor Pleiss played sparingly in the first three games of the series and did not appear at all in Game 4. The big man came up aces in the fourth quarter when he played 9:22 minutes. Pleiss hit a go-ahead three-pointer and a game-tying hook on his only 2 shots of the game. He also made life difficult for Real's star center Walter Tavares.
Efes's outstanding three-point shooting made the difference in such a close game. The hosts knocked down 14 of 29 triples (48.3%), including 5 of 8 in the fourth quarter. Real also made 14 threes, but needed 38 shots (36.8%) to do so.
A Dunston milestone
Bryant Dunston grabbed 2 offensive rebounds to snap a tie with Nikola Milutinov of CSKA Moscow and move into sole possession of seventh place in EuroLeague history with 466 career offensive rebounds. Jan Vesely of Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul is sixth with 477.
Efes has advanced to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four and will face CSKA Moscow in the semifinals at Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany, on Friday, May 28. That game will be a rematch of the 2019 championship game. Real's EuroLeague season has come to an end and Coach Pablo Laso's men will now focus on the Spanish League.
Tuesday, May 4, 2021