Efes Pilsen Istambul made a strong step in the direction of the quarterfinal playoffs by winning its first road game of the Top 16 by 70-89 against Prokom Trefl Sopot in Group G on Wednesday. With its record improved to 3-1, Efes was sure to hold at least share second place in the group standings, while Prokom dropped to 0-4 and was eliminated from the race for the quarterfinals playoffs. Henry Domercant led the winners with 21 points and Will Solomon added 19 in a game that was quite different from the record-breaking defensive game Efes won a week before. Goran Nikolic added 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting, while his frontcourt mate, Niksa Prkacin, had 10 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Desmon Farmer led Prokom with 18 points, 12 of them in the second quarter, when the hosts got close. Adam Wojcik added 15 points and Istvan Nemeth had 10 for the hosts. Efes broke the game in the third period, using its best weapon: strong defense. The guests only allowed 11 points in 10 minutes, while Nikolic and Solomon helped Efes to cruise to a well-deserved win.
The game lived up to the expectations in its opening minutes, as both teams struggled to score against strong man-to-man defenses. Goran Jagodnik opened the score with free throws, but Domercant immediately answered with a long two-pointer, which he followed with his first triple to give Efes a 2-5 lead. Defensive stopper Alper Yilmaz now stroke twice from downtown and Nikolic added a six-meter jumper to boost the guests' margin to 4-13, forcing a Prokom timeout midway through the opening quarter. Tomas Pacesas became Prokom's go-to guy, drilling a three from the top of the key and feeding Tomas Masiulis for a fastbreak layup that brought Prokom within 11-15. It didn't last long, however, as Domercant followed Prkacin's tip-in with a triple from the left wing and the Efes defense retook control. Masiulis slashed for a tough reverse layup and Wojcik added a jump hook to keep Prokom as close as 15-22. But a mid-range jumper by Domercant and a final basket by Solomon gave Efes a double-digit lead, 17-27, after 10 minutes.
Kaya Peker worked in the low post for a basket, giving Efes its biggest lead so far at 17-29, but Wojcik answered with a shot close in as Prokom improved its aggressiveness early in the second quarter. Farmer came off the bench and found an uncontested layup, but Dusan Kecman answered from downtown to restore a double-digit lead at 21-32 for Efes. Farmer then made a floating layup off the baseline and Istvan Nemeth a fastbreak dunk-plus-free throw. Wojcik capped a 7-0 run with a basket in the paint that made it 28-32. Nikolic hit a basket for Efes, but a red-hot Farmer combined a layup in traffic with a stop-and-pop triple to force an Efes timeout at 34-37. Wojcik followed free throws with an amazing three-point play while Farmer - who else? - added yet another basket-plus-foul to put Prokom in front for the first time since the opening basket, 42-40. However, Ermal Kuqo turned a tough basket into a three-point play and Solomon dunked after a midcourt steal as Efes reestablished a 44-46 advantage at halftime.
Domercant fired in a five-meter jumper immediately after the break, to which Pacesas answered with a turnaround shot off the glass. Efes tried to break the game early in the third quarter, as Prkacin dunked, Solomon hit a running layup and Nikolic popped short jumper for a 48-54 edge. Prokom couldn't even find open looks now until Alexander Radojevic made a five-meter shot, but still Prkacin made a baseline basket-plus-foul and Nikolic his trademark mid-range jumper to complete a 2-11 run that left Efes with a 50-61 edge. Prokom called timeout but Efes kept rolling with its amazing defense, holding the hosts scoreless for 5 minutes until Nemeth slashed for a difficult layup. Kuqo and Nikolic simply added baskets inside before Efes rolled to the end of the quarter in front by 55-67 after having limited Prokom to 11 points in the third quarter.
Prokom tried to get back into the game early in the final quarter with a three-pointer by Nemeth, but after the guests went scoreless for 2 minutes, Domercant stepped up with a catch-and-shoot triple and Solomon fed Peker to make it a 14-point game, 58-72, with less than 7 minutes to go. The Efes defense did not allow any points for 3 minutes during which the lead peaked at 58-74 with free throws by Peker. Farmer followed Mariusz Bacik's layup with his second triple, while Wojcik dunked it, bringing the hosts within single digits again, at 65-74. Farmer then gave the Prokom fans hope with an amazing three-pointer as the shot clock expired, as Efes played with long possessions and relied on its defense. After Solomon hit free throws and Prkacin fed Nikolic for an easy basket, the victory was sealed at 68-80 with under 2 minutes to go. Prokom was eliminated from the quarterfinal race in Group G, but Efes was looking good with its third win.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005