Efes Pilsen proved why it is considered one of the main contenders to reach the Euroleague quarterfinal playoffs when it routed visiting Prokom Trefl Sopot 86-62 in Istanbul to open Group G of the Top 16 on Wednesday. Efes started Group G with a 1-0 record and tied for first place with AEK, a winner over Benetton. Prokom dropped to 0-1. Nikola Prkacin and Henry Domercant led the winners with 17 points each. Domercant had 13 in the first half, in which Efes sealed the outcome. Kaya Peker added 12 points for Efes, Ermal Kuqo 11 and Erden Arslan 10. Goran Jagodnik led Prokom with 21 points, while Aleksandar Radojevic added 12 for the guests. Efes used a mamooth 20-0 run in the second quarter to break the game open and reached halftime with double-digit margins that lasted until the final buzzer.
Prokom got the opening basket from Jagodnik and a triple from Wojcik to take a 3-5 lead, but soon Kuqo was executing a basket-plus-free throw and added a layup after that to put Efes in front at 8-5. Despite a triple by Jagodnik that made it 10-8, Domercant got his first 5 points at the foul line then added his first basket as Efes pulled away, 17-8. Nikolic's second basket in as many minutes added to the lead, but Aleksander Radojevic put back an offensive rebound and Jagodnik fired another triple to keep the guests within 19-13. Domercan answered from the arc, but Jagodnik had time for 4 more points, giving him 12 for the quarter, as Prokom stayed within 22-17 of Efes after 10 minutes.
In the second quarter, Efes turned on its famous defense, but pumped in enough offense to go with it that Prokom was soon staring at a long, uphill climb. First, however, Prokom pulled within 24-22 on a dunk by Radojevic and a triple by Istvan Nemeth. That was the end of the fun for the visitors, however. Using its advantage inside with Peker and Prkacin, Efes reeled off a 20-0 run over the next 7 minutes to break the game open. Ender Arslan ran the show and had 7 points in that stretch, while Peker popped in 6 more as the lead ballooned to 44-22. Despite scoring no points in the final 2 minutes before halftime, Efes managed to lead 44-27 at the break.
Prokom started the third quarter with pressure defens that managed to stop Efes from scoring easy points. Radojevic dunked twice for the guests and then Tomas Masiulis popped a triple that made it 48-34. Another three-pointer, by Tomas Pacesas, came before 5 consecutive points by Jagodnik that put the deficit on the brink of single digits again, at 50-39. Prokom's rally stalled there, however, as Efes big men Kuqo and Peker answered every basket after that by the guests. The difference was still 12 points, 58-46, after a layup by Wojcik in minute 28. Prkacin finished out the quarter with 3 unanswered points that pushed the Efes lead to 61-46, only 2 points fewer than the hosts' advantage at the half.
Nemeth opened the final quarter with a layup for Prokom, but Dusan Kecman drilled a three-pointer, Nikolic a basket-plus-foul and Domercant a layup for an 8-0 run that restored a 21-point Efes lead, 69-48. The defensive mood that had governed the game until that point now changed, as both teams looked for points over the remaining minutes. Prkacin kept Efes well ahead at 75-53, and even when Wojcik struck from the arc for Prokom, Arslan was ready to answer. For the third time in the season, Prokom found itself staring at the brick wall of the Efes defense, and the result was no different than the other two times, but rather an even bigger win for the hosts.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005