Montepaschi Siena KO’d Efes Pilsen 88-76
Montepaschi Siena beat Efes Pilsen 88-76 Tuesday night at the Palaestra in Italy to advance to the Quarterfinal Playoffs. The Italian champs won their third game in a row after a 0-2 start to the Top 16 and sent Efes Pilsen packing. Montepaschi will now face Olympiacos Piraeus in the best-of-five playoff series next month. The hosts needed to win by at least 3 and led 49-47 at halftime, but took control with a great defensive effort in the third quarter, when Efes Pilsen was held to 11 points and the visitors never got closer than 7 in the fourth quarter. Milovan Rakovic paced Montepaschi with 15 points, Rimantas Kaukenas added 14 points, Ksistof Lavrinovic and David Moss scored 11 apiece and Nikos Zisis tallied 8 points and 5 assists. Igor Rakocevic, who gave his team a boost after returning from injury with 24 points, but found little help. Only Kerem Gonlum and Nikola Vujcic scored in double figures for the visitors, with 10 points apiece, as Siena forced 20 turnovers and controlled the tempo of the game in the last 20 minutes. Montepaschi will travel to play Real Madrid in Week 6, while Efes Pilsen will close out the Top 16 by hosting Partizan at the Sinan Erdem Arena.
Both teams had a raucous start to the game, as a pair of Rakovic layups bookended a Bootsy Thornton three-pointer. Rakovic added his 6th point on a rim-rattling dunk that put Siena in front 10-7. Rakocevic tied it with a triple as all signs pointed towards a high-scoring affair. It definitely was tight in the opening quarter, as both teams worked to get set an inside presence at both ends and neither managed to get beyond a 5-point lead. Wily veteran Kerem Gonlum got going for the visitors with a couple of inside buckets and Shaun Stonerook tacked on another layup to end the quarter at a 25-23 Siena advantage. With the home crowd rocking, both teams were feeling good, playing at a premium level, moving the ball crisply and shooting over 70%.
Flip Murray put Efes ahead 25-26 with a corner triple to start the second quarter, but Kaukenas answered at the other end from beyond the arc and Tomas Ress slammed one home to score it 30-28 after Gonlum had laid one in on a nifty assist from Lawrence Roberts. Both teams kept trading punches in a high-quality game where two great offenses were simply outweighing two great defenses. Physical halfcourt play dominated the second quarter, and Malik Hairston banked a back-to-the-basket post move for a three-point play before Marco Carraretto forced head coach Velimir Perasovic to call timeout with a fast break layup that scored it 35-30 midway through the quarter. Transition baskets were scarce, but high-percentage shooting was still the norm. Siena nursed its 5-point lead and Hairston got the point across that this was a high-motor affair after he dunked a rebound home in spectacular fashion and swished a triple to widen the gap to 44-38. Roberts showed off his hops as well on another slam to counter, and Efes managed to keep it close despite a nifty Kaukenas three-point play by scoring the half’s last 5 points. The break was reached at 49-47 with no hint of a truce in the horizon.
Montepaschi attacked the basket coming out of the gate in the third quarter and scored 4 quick points, while Efes worked the pick-and-roll with authority as Vujcic carried the load by exhibiting a sweet touch and considerable hops for consecutive baskets that made it 55-51. As the visitors tried on a 3-2 zone for size, Simone Panigiani’s crew moved the ball patiently and well in the halfcourt game. When Rakovic wasn’t draining a jumper, it was hyperactive Moss scoring on a put-back that gave the hosts a 60-51 lead, forcing Perasovic into another timeout. The regroup didn’t pay instant dividends for Efes, as Moss scored again and the home defense held the visitors to 5 points in the first eight minutes of the half. A Marko Jaric stop-and-pop kept the lead in double digits after the visiting team had closed in to within 8 with an Andrew Wisniewski layup, and Montepaschi kept in the driver’s seat throughout the quarter, entering the final period with a 70-58 cushion.
Efes started the fourth with a small lineup intended to put some pressure on a stout Siena defense that had dominated the paint in the previous quarter. But the hosts stayed calm and worked the clock and the baseline with constant movement that freed Rakovic often when the visiting defense rotated, providing for easy buckets. In need of a spark, Rakocevic came through for the vitiors with a triple and a foul that got his team to within 72-63. The Gonlum-Bostjan Nachbar combination kept Efes in that margin midway through the quarter, but the former fouled out on the ensuing possession and Ress tacked on with a long jumper that seemed to deflate Perasovic’s crew while keeping Siena with a full head of steam. Still, Efes dug deep and found a couple of warriors in veterans Kerem Tunceri, who scored on a layup, and Rakocevic, who made it 81-74 with 2:30 to go on a triple. But Siena just kept coming up with loose ball after loose ball in the waning minutes, while aggressively cutting to the basket and finding the open man for easy looks on the attack, never letting Efes get any closer than 7 points in the final quarter.
Thursday, February 24, 2011