To the joy of fans in Istanbul, Efes Pilsen showed why it is mentioned among the top teams in the Euroleague on Wednesday when it blasted Adecco Asvel 69-44 in Group C with a defensive performance for the record books. Only once before since the Euroleague started in 2000 had a defense held an opponent to fewer points, when Union Olimpija beat London Towers 73-40 at Ljubljana in December, 2001. This was defense on another level by Efes, against a perennial contender in France and a Top 16 team in the Euroleague last year. Apart from locking down Asvel's scorers, Efes put up some points itself. Antonio Granger poured in 16 points, Trajan Langdon 14 and Kaya Peker 12 for the winners. For Asvel, only Kerem Souchu broke double digits with 11 points. Efes is now 2-0 atop Group C while Asvel falls to 1-1.
Asvel had started the game with short point guard Shawnta Rogers hitting an outside shot, but Efes didn't wait to answer. Within a couple minutes, Trajan Langdon's three-pointer and Kerem Tunceri's copy of the same gave the hosts control of the match. Efes also seemed to be tougher on defense, while Asvel allowed the hosts too many easy scoring chances. As such, Efes boosted its lead all the way to 11 points after 8 minutes, 20-9, with an inside basket by Goran Nikolic. Sacha Giffa answered Nikolic immediately, but Harold Mrazek missed a three-point attempt that might have got Asvel back on track and the first quarter ended with 20-11 on the scoreboard.
Asvel played better, more physical defense in the second quarter, combining ball pressure on defense with patience in offense to shorten the differance to 8 points. Over 4 minutes, Asvel limited Efes to 4 points, but at the same time the hosts were not letting many points get by them. Despite losing Ermal Kurtoglu to a third foul early in the quarter, Efes kept the defensive pressure on Asvel, which saw its points column stalled in the teens. Meanwhile, Alper Yilmaz's three-pointer looked like gold as it made the score 34-18 for Efes. In the last 90 seconds, only 2 more points were scored, as Kerem Tunceri doubled the score for the home team to 36-18, where it stood at halftime. Among all scorers to that point, only Trajan Langdon of Efes had reached double figures with 10 points.
The scoring silence continued through the first 2 minutes of the third period until big man Kaya Peker sank the first basket for Efes and forged a new high lead of 38-18. Suddenly, a defensive standoff became a scoring race for 8 minutes until the end of the quarter. Efes kept controlling the game and Asvel's offensive tries mostly hit the Efes wall. The home team's lead climbed minute by minute, anyway, with Granger driving and Peker dunking spectacularly for a comfortable 57-32 advantage after 30 minutes that had the fans in Istanbul quite sure of the eventual outcome.
The fans knew they were right when Efes started the fourth and last quarter with a show just for them. First Ermal Kurtoglu slammed a huge dunk and Granger brought the fans to their feet with a perfect inside drive to increase the differance to 29 points, 61-32. Asvel was unable to stop anything in the paint while the Efes defense refused to bend for any easy shots by the French team. Nikolic's insider basket put the lead over 30, at 65-34. Now the only question remaining was whether the Efes defense was going to set some sort of record. Asvel was able to score 10 points during the rest of the game, enough to avoid the worst scoring mark in the Euroleague since 2000, but not by much.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Gokhan Ture, Istanbul