Efes Pilsen has used the strength of its crowd and the luck of its home court to fight off another series Euroleague foe tonight. Down early to a hungry Alba Berlin, Efes held on at home in Istanbul on Wednesday to claim a 78-72 decision in Group A and raise its record to 2-1. Alba became a victim for the third time in as many game despite showing its best face on the road. Alba led at various times through the first 25 minutes, but once Efes got an edge, it would not let go, certainly not with its 25-game home winning streak to protect. Alba was always in striking distance, but never closed in enough to have one shot at even tying near the end. Efes got big games out of insider Kaspars Kambala, with 23 points, and outsider Marcus Brown 2ith 22. For Berlin, Derrick Phelps returned from injury to score 19 points while Teoman Ozturk and Sven Schultz added 13 each.
Efes lead after one quarter 20-19, but Alba made its move in the second and held its head above all the disadvantages that doomed Benetton a week earlier in the same gym. Alba arrived to the midway point of the third quarter still leading 42-43. Ozturk, visiting his home country, was the best scorer for Alba in the first half with 7 points. Alba played good as a team and took advantage of early foul trouble by Kambala to hold its own inside with Ozturk and Wendell Alexis. Brown was already hot for Efes with 11 points in the first half, but it took the appearance of Mehmet Okur inside the lane later in the third quarter to start the Efes turnaround. By the end of that quarter, the home team was ahead on a Sauluius Stombergas basket 49-48. By now, Kambala was back in action, too, leading the hosts with 14 points while helping hold Alexis to just 7.
The new Efes lead was slim but sturdy, holding at 62-58 with 4 minutes left to play. From there on in, Efes kept leading as a Kambala foul shot made it 63-58, but Alexis scored to cut the lead to 63-60. Kambala add two more free throws, and then Brown had a basket as the lead shot up again to 67 - 60. When Alexis made a single point, Kambala answered with a basket for the best lead of the game for Efes 69-61. Only two minutes remained, and only with an Ozturk three that made it 74-68 could Alba hope again, but it was too late and Efes had its 26th straight win on its home court.
Wednesday, October 24, 2001