The do-or-die duel in Group A between two tied teams, Pau-Orthez and visiting Efes Pilsen, was decided for the guests from Istanbul on Wednesday, 74-85, thanks to a fantastic fourth quarter.Efes is now 4-3 in the group while Pau-Orthez falls to 3-4 despite having led for three quarters at home. An enormous Kaspars Kambala, who finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds was the main pillar for Efes, as his intelligence in the paint provided his team with easy baskets and rebounds. Kambala shot 10 for 12 from the field and 2 for 3 at the line and had 5 of his rebounds on offense. Marcus Brown led the winners with 25 points, while Omer Onan added 16 and Antonio Granger 10. For Pau, Rod Sellers was big inside with 23 points, while Mikael Pietrus had 11 points and his brother Florent 10.
The rhythm at the start of the game was pretty fast, even though the teams failed to score. That situation was solved soon though, and after an early lead by Efes PIlsen, Pau-Orthez jumped to 10-8 after Kyle Hill's jumper. The hosts looked for the strength of Rod Sellers under the boards while the main resources for Efes were Antonio Granger and Kaspars Kambala. The ball changed hands easily in offense as both teams appeared to think that the best way to win this game was scoring more than the rival, those leaving defenses aside for a while. Kambala put the guests ahead again 14-15, but Hill replied again for 16-15. The good shooting percentages, mainly for the hosts, and the rhythm resulted in a very visual game, but it was claer that the way wouldn't be as easy and in the following minutes the pace settled down a bit. Sellers was winning his particular duel with Kambala under Efes' board while Kambala did the same in the rival basket, as both players ended the first period with 10 points each. Sellers scored again for 22-17. Some more fast plays conducted by Dragan Lukovski boosted Pau to 27-19 after 10 minutes.
An early second quarter burst culminated with a three by Granger allowed Efes to pull within 29-26, but Pau-Orthez continued to play its game despite the reaction of the guests, but Sellers was given some rest and the inside game of the hosts decreased in intensity. Defenses grew aggressive on both sides and every basket had to be sweated first, which was reflected on Pau's field goal percentages that started to go down. Jurica Golemac sealed the reaction with a 3-point play to tie it at 29-29. It was tim efor Pau's reaction now, started by good actions on defense and offense by Cyril Julian and sealed by Artur Drozdov with a layup for 38-31. Without Kambala on court, Efes seemed to have lost the best way to approach the basket and that's why coach Mahmut Oktay put him back on court before the hosts could pull away any further. A fastbreak slammed by Florent Pietrus improved Pau's lead to 42-31 at the same time that Efes was losing its place on court in front of the French avalanche backed by the fans that packed the arena. The teams hit the lockerrooms with the 42-31 while Pau-Orthez was playing at its best.
With both Sellers and Kambala back on court after resumption, the game resembles that of the first quarter, but Efes improved as a team in the first steps of the third period, moving the ball ans looking for the best option, while Pau's attacks were always ended by Dragan Lukovski rather unsuccessfully. The Turkish approached at 45-38 quick and the game was alive again. Kambala dominated at ease in the paint now sinking the ball down in the basket or giving breath to his team's offensive plays circulating the ball from the low post or also, playing without the ball opening spaces. Yet another layup by Kambala put the 49-46 in the score with more than 3 minutes to go in the period. Ender Arslan joined the party shooting from downtown, while Pau-Orthez found consolation on isolated plays, good enough to maintain the leadership in the game, 56-49 after a three by Frederic Fauthoux. Boris Diaw had injured his ankle and his absence was just another handicap for the hosts. Efes found the perfect balance in offense between inside and outside plays, combinated with fastbreaks as Kambala was also rebounding like mad under Pau's board. Sellers was far from being the decisive player of the first half, and the French team had to find alternate ways to approach the basket while the third period ended 56-53 and Efes ready for the assault to the decisive period.
Marcus Brown put his team ahead with a 3-point play at 56-58 in the first play of the last quarter, and Brown himself made it 56-60 in the following play. Pau-Orthez needed a reaction on both ends, as the defense had grown weaker also. The Turkish festival went on as Omer Onan gave a double-digit lead to his team, 56-66 and 7 minutes to go. Coach Fred Sarre tried to get a reaction of his men desperately in every timeout and finally got it as the hosts rallied for a 5-0 run that made the fans also react. The three-pointers became Efes' best option as the hosts tightened their defense and saw they could win the game at 65-69. Kambala was still there though, and a 3-point play by himself plus another one by Brown in the following one, put Efes ahead at 10 points again, 65-75. A couple of quick plays including a three by Mickael Pietrus were the last chance for Pau-Orthez at 70-75 and one minute and a half to go. But of course, Kambala was there to impede it, and two more free throws by Brown for 71-79 sealed Efes' win.
Wednesday, December 4, 2002