Larkin lifts Efes in Tel Aviv
Anadolu Efes Istanbul made it a clean sweep of the double-round week by taking down Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv 78-92 on the latter's home floor on Thursday. The victory broke their part of a four-way tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the standings, with Efes rising to an 8-8 record and Maccabi dropping to 7-9 with its sixth consecutive defeat. Shane Larkin shined for Efes with 26 points on 6-for-7 three-point shooting. Tibor Pleiss had 15 points while three other Efes players scored 10 each: Elijah Bryant, Krunoslav Simon and Adrien Moerman. For Maccabi, Ante Zizic poured in 23 points while James Nunnally had 14, Keenan Evans 12 and Scottie Wilbekin 10. Maccabi led 20-29 in a first half marked by several lead changes, but once Larkin got going after halftime, the hosts could not counterpunch enough to threaten Efes.
Zizic's second-chance alley-oop dunk and a jumper by Pleiss opened the scoring before Wilbekin had Maccabi up 7-2 with the game's first triple. Pleiss continued hitting shots but Zizic and Wilbekin gave the hosts an 11-6 edge before their ex-teammate Bryant entered to convert a gutsy three-point play for Efes and Pleiss tied it with another jumper. Zizic's second alley-oop dunk was met by Moerman landing a stand-still triple for Efes's first lead, 13-14. Derrick Williams said hello with a steal and dunk for Maccabi that Bryant answered with a driving finish, just as he copied Wilbekin going off the glass to tie 18-18. Nunnally and Jalen Reynolds sparked a 7-0 Maccabi run to pull in with a 27-20 advantage after 10 minutes.
Pleiss and Reynolds exchanged inside baskets before Micic and Larkin filled a five-point possession to get Efes within 27-31. Pleiss converted a nifty and-one possession before Larkin's second triple flipped the lead and his steal-and-go fastbreak made it 34-39 for Efes. Zizic ended Maccabi's drought with a put-back to which John Di Bartolomeo added a jumper while Zizic downed free throws and a hook shot for another lead swing, 44-39. Simon rescued Efes from deep and fed Moerman for another triple to put Efes newly in front, 44-45. Wilbekin found Di Bartolomeo for triple in the corner, but Simon answered in kind, leaving Efes on top, 47-50 after 20 minutes.
Moerman and Evans traded scores to open the second half and the exchange of points continued at a fast pace until Larkin broke loose for back-to-back three-pointers to open the biggest lead of the night for Efes, 57-64. Evans broke the Efes run with a layup but Larkin was waiting again for a second-chance triple, his third in a span of 2 minutes, at 59-67. Nunnally got loose inside for a pair of baskets before Micic hit a layup and Bryant Dunston a free throw for Efes to close the third quarter leading 63-70.
Zizic fought hard for a put-back to open the fourth quarter but Bryant quieted the crowd with a three-pointer to make it 65-73. Evans struck from the arc for Maccabi while Efes got a dunk from Dunston. The scoring stalled until Evans hit again from deep to make it 71-75 with 5:30 left, but Larkin went the other way and nailed his sixth triple. Simon hit a runner out of one timeout and Larkin a baseline jumper after another to establish the game's first double-digit lead, 71-82. When Larkin hit Dunston for an easy dunk, with 2:30 left, the handwriting was on the wall that this victory was headed back to Istanbul.
Pivotal performer: Larkin lets fly in Tel Aviv
Shane Larkin's first shot for Anadolu Efes Istanbul, early in the second quarter, was a strike from the three-point line. He might as well have lit a fuse – because he was ready to explode. Within the next 20 minutes, while Efes turned a 29-20 deficit on Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv's home floor into a 63-70 advantage, Larkin scored 21 of his game-high 26 points while hitting 5 of 6 triples. Every time the Maccabi fans got loud, Larkin got shooting. Finally, when Maccabi closed within 71-75 midway through the fourth quarter, Larkin detonated his final three-pointer from the corner. The hosts never got closer again and Larkin, with the help of 6 assists and 6 rebounds, finished with a performance index rating of 37, his highest of the season.
Efes's Bryant hurt his old Maccabi teammates
Having spent his first two seasons with Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv, swingman Elijah Bryant returned to Menora Mivtachim Arena for the first time on Thursday wearing the uniform of the opponent, Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Coming first off the Efes bench midway through the first quarter, Bryant was on the floor less than 30 seconds when he drove hard, finished and drew a foul worth a three-point play. He would add a strong put-back soon after and by quarter's end, he had 7 points. He only returned to the floor much later, but in time to hit an early fourth-quarter triple that helped his team stay in charge, finishing with 10 points in just 15 minutes on his old playing floor.
By the numbers: Efes dished for better shots
Anadolu Efes Istanbul head coach Ergin Ataman remarked at halftime that his team had missed open shots, and indeed, the MVP of the round that finished the previous day, Vasilije Micic, was 1-for-9 from the field, including 0-for-6 from downtown, for the visitors. In the end, though, he couldn't complain about his team's 57.9% two-point shooting on 22-for-38 accuracy or its 13-for-22 display (40.6%) from downtown.
Take away Micic's rough night and those numbers were quite good. One reason is that Efes had a lot of wide-open shots, inside and outside, thanks to great ball movement that resulted in 26 assists, its best effort in a road game this season. Kruno Simon led the charge with 7 assists, while Shane Larkin added 6, Rodrigue Beaubois 4 and Micic 3. Those were 8 more assists total than Maccabi had, and it showed in the shooting percentages, especially on the three-point arc, where the hosts went 6-for-23, or 26.1%, which was very much the final difference on the scoreboard.
Thursday, December 16, 2021