Efes holds off CSKA in semis thriller
Anadolu Efes Istanbul advanced to its second straight Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game after dismissing outgoing champion CSKA Moscow 86-89 in the first semifinal of the 2021 Final Four at Lanxess Arena in Cologne Germany. Efes, which lost to CSKA in the 2019 final, will face the winner of Friday's second semifinal between FC Barcelona and AX Armani Exchange Milan in the championship game on Sunday. CSKA scored the game's first basket, but never led again as Efes opened a double-digit lead in the first quarter, led 37-39 at halftime and opened the third quarter with a 2-11 run. However, Iffe Lundberg sparked a 10-0 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters and gave CSKA hope. The game came down to the closing seconds and Will Clyburn missed a go-ahead three, which allowed Efes to hold on. Vasilije Micic led the Efes attack with 25 points and 6 assists before fouling out. Sertac Sanli also shined with 19 points and 8 rebounds, Rodrigue Beaubois added 15 points, Shane Larkin 11 and Krunoslav Simon 10. For CSKA, which saw its hopes of defending the EuroLeague crown for the first time come to an end, Clyburn scored 26, Daniel Hackett had 11 of his 17 in the fourth quarter, Iffe Lundberg netted 15 and Toko Shengelia paired 10 points with 7 rebounds.
The game started with each team scoring through strengths; Shengelia netted a tip-in for CSKA and Micic got a layup off a mismatch. There were some fine early moments on defense with Chris Singleton, Shengelia and Sanli each rejecting a shot. Efes pulled ahead through Simon's three-point play on the offensive glass and Beaubois's three-pointer. The game's first substitute, Johannes Voigtmann, netted a triple for CSKA only to see Simon match him to make it 7-13 after 5 minutes Hackett scored twice for the Muscovites, but threes at the other end by Micic and Beaubois prompted a CSKA timeout at 11-19. Beaubois's third triple made it a double-digit advantage for Efes and a jumper by Micic extended the margin to 12. Janis Strelnieks picked Larkin’s pocket and scored on the first-quarter buzzer to make it 15-25. Clyburn got going for CSKA, but Larkin kept Efes in control and Micic extended the lead to 24-39 with free throws and a step-back three. Though Clyburn continued to shine for CSKA, it wasn't enough to make a significant dent in the deficit. Larkin took control with an acrobatic layup and an assist to Sanli for a slam and a 33-49 lead. Clyburn scored the last two baskets of the half to give CSKA hope at 37-49.
Micic converted a four-point play to start the second half and added a jumper to give him 20 points and Efes an 18-point advantage. Everything seemed to go in Efes's favor as even after Nikita Kurbanov rejected Sanli at the rim, the Turkish center grabbed the ball and turned it into a basket-plus-foul. A layup by Simon capped a 2-11 start to the half. Lundberg scored twice for CSKA, but the Efes attack kept generating points. Micic blew by Lundberg and Voigtmann and added free throws to push the difference to 48-69. Lundberg responded with a three from the corner and Singleton took a seat with 4 fouls. Shengelia was called for his fourth foul after a turnover on the ensuing play. Clyburn rose for a thunderous slam and Lundberg scored in the lane to trim the deficit to 55-61 at the end of the third quarter. Ivan Ukhov opened the fourth with a three, Voigtmann made a great defensive play and Lundberg drilled a three to bring roars from the CSKA bench and calls for a timeout from the Efes bench at 61-71 just a minute into the fourth quarter. Ukhov forced Simon into a turnover and the momentum had switched. Efes regained its composure and Lundberg became the game's first casualty of the foul limit. Ukhov netted a three to bring CSKA within 66-75. Sanli made free throws and dunked to keep Efes in charge, but a layup by Hackett and an offensive foul that Darrun Hilliard drew from Micic had the CSKA bench on its feet at 73-81 with less than 5 minutes to play. Hackett kept the pressure on when he capitalized on a turnover by Larkin for a three-point play and drew Micic's fifth foul. Free throws by Clyburn made it 80-83 with 2:54 remaining. Beaubois responded with his third basket of the fourth quarter, after which CSKA called timeout. Kurbanov sank free throws to get CSKA within 86-87 with just over 1 minute to play. After a defensive stop, Clyburn and Hilliard both missed and CSKA sent Larkin went to the line with 7.8 seconds remaining. He split his shots and CSKA had a shot to win it, but Clyburn missed from downtown and Efes held on.
Freshly crowned EuroLeague MVP Vasilije Micic scored 14 points in the opening 14 minutes of the game to lead Efes to an early double-digit, then scored the first 6 points of the third quarter to extend the margin beyond 20 points. Micic finished the game with 25 points and 6 assists, though he fouled out in the fourth quarter and was not on the floor to help Efes close out the win after CSKA rallied.
Sertac Sanli set the tone in the first quarter with a pair of blocked shots before delivering on the offensive end. Sanli was on the receiving end of passes from Micic and Shane Larkin and went on to contribute with 19 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. He missed only 3 shots and was perfect in 7 trips to the line in compiling a PIR of 25, which was 1 off his career-best.
Iffe Lundberg, in his 14th EuroLeague appearance after making his debut in late February, opened the game with 2 early personal fouls and was scoreless until 6:19 left in the third quarter with CSKA down 39-60. However, Lundberg scored 15 of CSKA's next 21 points to close the gap to 61-71 and give his team a chance.
CSKA came into the game as the top rebounding (35.6 rpg.) and offensive rebounding (12.7 orpg.) team in the competition, but Efes more than held its own, outrebounding CSKA 28-29. Efes also made more three-pointers than CSKA on fewer attempts, going 8 for 20 (40%) from behind the arc, while CSKA was 7 for 25 (28%). Efes improved to 23-0 on the season when scoring at least 80 points.
Friday, May 28, 2021