Efes Pilsen guaranteed its spot among three teams who will share first place in Group C at midseason when it pinned down previous leader Pamesa Valencia with a 69-59 victory in Istanbul on Wednesday. Both teams now share a 5-2 record, and were to be joined by either Benetton Treviso or Idea Slask Wroclaw, both 4-2 before their own game later Wednesday. Efes put on a defensive exhibition and won comfortably. Pamesa, which had averaged 81.5 points in its first six games, had just 33 points after 30 minutes in Istanbul and managed to reduce the final margin only when the outcome was already clear. Antonio Granger led the winners with 23 points on 5-for-7 three-point shooting. Trajan Langdon added 12 points, Kaya Peker 11 and 9 rebounds, while Ender Arslan, who almost did not play due to injury, scored 11 points and dished 4 assists for Efes. Pamesa made just 18 of 54 shots. The visitors were led by Dimos Dikoudis, who posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Marko Popovic also scored 13, including 3 of 4 three-pointers, while Federico Kammerichs had 11 points in 11 minutes for Pamesa.
Pamesa opened the game with back-to-back baskets by Dejan Tomasevic and Fabricio Oberto to get an early lead at 1-4. Soon after that, Efes started powering the boards and went into a 9-2 run in which Peker made 3 free throws and Langdon added a layup and 2 more from the line. The Efes lead reached 10-6 on Granger's first three-pointer. Oberto, with 6 points, was the only offensive threat for the guests, while Granger soon caught fire, scoring 5 consecutive points to put Efes ahead 15-8. Only then did Pamesa fire back as Dikoudis made back-to-back jumpers, followed by a three-pointer from Popovic, the replacement for Alejandro Montecchia, who had picked up two fouls. Now, the guests were within 18-15. Alper Yilmaz, who had just substituted for Arslan, made 2 free throws before Antoine Rigaudeau made a jumper to reach the end of the first quarter with Efes leading 20-17. A better sign for the Efes fans was that the hosts were already outrebounding Pamesa 13-6.
Efes started the second quarter with a 6-1 run, looking for its big men inside. Peker and Niksa Prkacin made a layup each while Langdon added 2 free throws. But Langdon picked up his second and third fouls in just 1 minute, and had to go to the bench. Still, Peker was unstoppable in the middle, following a layup with a dunk to push the local lead to double digits, 30-20. Pamesa was limited to just 7 points in the second quarter, as the guests struggled to score against an aggressive and complete Efes defensive effort. Meanwhile, Granger added 2 layups and Yilmaz added a free throws to push the lead to 13 points, 35-22. Montecchia, with a mid-range jumper, helped Pamesa come within 11 points, 35-24, at halftime. Until then, Pamesa had made just 10 of 30 shots, while Efes carried on controlling the boards by 22-12, with Peker posting 8 first-half rebounds.
Little changed in the third quarter, as a layup by Prakcin and a jumper by Langdon pushed the local lead to 39-24, while Oberto and Tomasevic missed 2 free throws apiece. Pamesa went scoreless for 2 minutes until Rigaudeau dropped a free throw. The guests switched to zone defense, but Granger punished it by drilling a three-pointer while Arslan made an uncontested layup off a steal to make it a 19-point game. Even when the guests went back to man-to-man defense, Efes was ready, as Arslan hit another three to put Efes ahead by 21, 47-26. Pamesa tried a timeout, but the Efes defense carried on closing all passing lanes or any other means for the guests to find the basket. Meanwhile, Granger carried on bombing from downtown, as he made a catch-and-shoot seven-meter three-pointer. Ermal Kuqo added a dunk to help Efes double its opponents on the scoreboard, 52-26. The guests only showed some signs of life in the offensive end in the final minutes of the third quarter, as Dikoudis score 5 points and Federico Kammerichs added 2 free throws, but the Efes lead was still and amazing 22 points, 55-33, entering the fourth.
Pamesa tried to come back early in the final quarter, as a three-pointer by Asier Garcia was followed by Popovic with one of his own to ignite a 2-10 run in which Dikoudis and Kammerichs scored back-to-back layups. That made it a 14-point game, 57-43, as the guests started to dominate the boards in both ends of the court. Langdon, with 2 mid-range jumpers, and Granger, with his fifth three-pointer of the night, pushed the local lead back to 19, 64-45, midway through the final quarter. Even when Kammerichs and Popovic scored 3 points apiece in a 0-6 Pamesa run to bring the guests with 13, at 64-51, the game soon entered a phase of inevitability in which Pamesa tried to lose by the fewest points as possible in case tie-breakers are needed in the future. Kammerichs and Victor Luengo made 2 free throws apiece to bring Pamesa within 11, 66-57, entering the final minute, and in the end, Efes preserved a double-digit victory.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003