Efes turns back Olympiacos with defense
Anadolu Efes Istanbul protected its fourth place in the standings by turning back Olympiacos Piraeus with a 75-65 home win on Thursday. Efes raised its record to 15-8, while sixth-place Olympiacos fell to 12-11 with its fourth straight loss. The final difference also assures Efes a head-to-head tiebreak over Olympiacos should then finish the regular season tied. Efes, which ended a five-game losing streak to Olympiacos, withstood a 0-17 run with which the visitors flipped the scoreboard to 18-26 early in the second quarter. Efes then used relentless defense to limit Olympiacos to 39 points over the game's final 28 minutes. Krunoslav Simon led Efes with 13 points. Adrien Moerman had 12 points and 8 rebounds, while Shane Larkin scored 11 and dished 8 assists. Bryant Dunston scored 11 points and Vasilije Micic 10, as well. Janis Strelnieks led the visitors with 14 points, including 9 in a row, for Olympiacos to get within 51-49 in the third quarter, but the visitors did not get closer after that. Nikola Milutinov had 12 points and 8 rebounds for Olympiacos.
Simon and Moerman blasted triples to open the scoring before Briante Weber nailed his first EuroLeague points from deep, but Dunston and Micic soon made it 10-3. Moerman and Simon struck again at 18-9, but Weber and Milutinov cut the distance until Zach LeDay and Kostas Papanikolaou gave Olympiacos an 18-22 lead after 10 minutes. Sasha Vezenkov extended the visitors' run to 17-0 with a flying put-back and fastbreak layup to make it 18-26. Tibor Pleiss ended the Efes drought with a dunk and Brock Motum scored 5 points in a row at 25-29. James Anderson did the same before Dunston's block led to Simon tying it up. Moerman's baseline fadeaway gave Efes a new 36-35 edge at the half. Moerman, Dunston and Micic lifted the lead before Larkin's 3 of 3 free throws made it 47-37 mid-way through the third quarter. The Efes defense had taken over, forcing a 3 turnovers in 4 minutes after Olympiacos had committed 10 in the first half. Papanikolaou ended the drought and Strelnieks buried the next 9 points for his team, pulling Olympiacos to within 51-49 while reaching 1,000 points for his EuroLeague career. Simon came to the rescue for Efes to retain a 56-49 lead on Micic's banked-in buzzer-beater after 30 minutes. Micic came back with a take-no-prisoners driving dunk to open the fourth quarter, then Pleiss detonated an alley-oop dunk for a 62-51 lead. Militunov swung from the rim before Georgios Printezis downed a floater and free throws at 62-59 with under 6 minute left. Dunston and Moerman scored the game's next 6 points in close to make it 68-59. Dunston's three-point play pushed the difference to 73-63 with 1:30 to play, spelling the end of the drama and keeping the victory in Istanbul.
Shane Larkin might have missed all 3 of his three-point tries and only hit 2 of 3 two-pointes, but his 7 perfect free throws and especially his season-high 8 assists were like gold dust for Efes in a tough, defensive battle.
The game marked 38th meeting between Efes and Olympiacos since 2000, matching Olympiacos and KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz for the most prolific rivalry in the EuroLeague this century, and by extension, among the most prolific international rivalries in world basketball. Olympiacos now leads the series 17-21.
Balbay applies the breaks
Briante Weber started his EuroLeague career with 8 points in 6 minutes as a starter for Olympiacos in the absence of injured Vassilis Spanoulis. Efes captain Dogus Balbay took the assignment of stopping Weber and did just that when the latter returned for the last 7 minutes of the second quarter, but did not score again in the game.
Olympiacos goes home to Piraeus to host second-place CSKA Moscow in Round 23. Efes goes across town in attempts to sweep the league leaders, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, for the season.
Thursday, February 21, 2019