Dragic stars as Unicaja rolls over Efes
Unicaja Malaga led from start to finish as it defeated Anadolu Efes Istanbul 83-75 on Friday at Martin Carpena Arena to assume sole possession of third place in Top 16 Group E with a 5-4 record. The hosts started the game on a 17-1 tear and though Efes rallied to get back in the game, the visitors never got within a shot of tying it. Zoran Dragic tied career highs with 24 points and 4 three-pointers made to lead Unicaja. He also tallied 3 assists and 4 steals for a career-best performance index rating of 30. Jayson Granger scored 16 points and grabbed 3 steals and Mindaugas Kuzminskas added 15 points and Fran Vazquez finished with 6 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. Kostas Vasileiiadis, who tried to rally Efes in the fourth quarter, led the visitors with 15 points. Zoran Planinic totaled 14 points, 6 assists and 4 steals, Milko Bjelica scored 11 and teenager Cedi Osman and Jamon Gordon netted 10 apiece.
First quarter: Unicaja storms ahead with 17-1 start
Dragic got to the line for the game’s first points before Nik Caner-Medley scored in transition. Kuzminskas scored twice as Unicaja simply dominated the opening minutes. More than three minutes passed before Gordon scored Efes’s maiden point. Caner-Medley came up with a steal and sent a long alley-oop pass to Kuzminskas for a 10-1 lead before Efes coach Evangelos Angelou called timeout. Little changed as Dragic scored twice – the second a three-point play – and Earl Calloway added a jumper to make it 17-1. Kerem Gonlum’s slam was the visitors’ first basket more than five minutes into the game. However Unicaja did not ease up; Fran Vazquez rejected Birkan Batuk on one end and Mindaugas scored at the other. Dragic added a three and Granger a layup for a 24-3 start. Osman attacked the basket and sank a floater and Bjelica soon added a basket-plus foul as Efes showed signs of life at 26-8. Batuk drained a triple, but Granger dunked to cap a 29-11 quarter.
Second quarter: Planinic helps Efes recover and rally to within 8
Bjelica scored twice and in between his steal led to a Jamon Gordon score as Efes started to claw its way back. Caner-Medley free throws marked the hosts’ first points after more than three minutes. Planinic’s layup and Osman converted an acrobatic layup to trim the deficit to 10. Calloway’s pull-up jumper revived the hosts, but Planinic answered inside. Vazquez added free throws, Gonlum countered with a second-chance bucket. Dragic drilled a three and Vladimir Stimac scored his first points as Unicaja rebuilt a 15-point advantage. But Efes dominated the final minute of the half. Planinic made a pair of layups – and the free throw that came with the second – and assisted Dusko Savanovic on a layup to bring the difference to 42-34 at the break.
Third quarter: Osman shines as visitors get even closer
Vazquez opened the second half with a jumper. Savanovic and Granger traded baskets before Dragic’s steal and three-point play made it 49-36. Osman responded with a three from the corner only to see Kuzminskas drain a triple. Vazquez added a second jumper. Osman led an Efes charge with a three from the elbow and assists to Gonlum and Batuk on the break. Planinic capped a 0-9 run with a jumper that made it 54-48 midway through the quarter. Kuzminskas snapped Unicaja’s drought and Dragic converted a basket-plus-foul on the break and a three-pointer to restore a comfortable margin. Gordon’s layup and another by Vasileiiadis brought Efes within 9. Kuzminskas made it 63-52 with 10 minutes to go.
Fourth quarter: Efes comes within 4, Dragic wraps up Unicaja win
After Granger free throws, Gordon banked in a jumper and Vasileiiadis sank a long jumper to make it 65-57. Ryan Toolson free throws and a Caner-Medley jumper put Unicaja back firmly in control. Bjelica scored inside and Vasileiiadis fired in a three to make it 69-62 with six minutes remaining. Stimac and Bjelica traded baskets. After a timeout, Planinic cut the gap to 4 with his first triple, but before Unicaja could panic Dragic knocked down a triple. Dragic’s steal led to a Caner-Medley layup and a 76-67 lead with three minutes remaining. Efes called timeout and ran a play that resulted in a Vasileiiadis triple. Granger looked to seal the outcome with a three-point play with 80 seconds to go that made it 79-70. Vasileiiadis made one last three with 47 seconds left and Granger, but it was too late as Unicaja wrapped up the victory.
Friday, March 7, 2014