Efes Pilsen has shocked a lot of people in Tel Aviv and around the Euroleague tonight by breaking Maccabi's 18-game home winning streak in Europe and denying their hosts first place in Group A. Despite having little motivation besides pride - and revenge against Maccabi for having stopped its own home streak of 27 wins in December - Efes took it to their hosts and emerged after 40 minutes with a huge 76-78 upset. Although Efes (9-5) will not improve on its fourth-place standing, it can take all kinds of confidence from this victory into Group F of the Top 16, where it joins defending Euroleague champion Kinder Bologna, Real Madrid and Ural Great of Russia. Maccabi drops to second place at 10-4, one victory behind Benetton and tied with Olympiakos, against whom the Israelis won a head-to-head tie-breaker by just two points. Maccabi now looks ahead to taking on Tau Ceramica, Ulker of Istanbul and CSKA of Moscow in Group H of the Top 16.
Maccabi opened the game with Hussein Besok, Derick Sharp, Anthony Parker, Arriel McDonald and Nate Huffman but Efes wasn't impressed and opened the with on a 5-12 run after the first five minutes. It took Maccabi another three minutes to cut the diference to just two at 12-14 but Efes still wasn't phased and answered right back with an 0-8 run. Efes took a 12-22 lead and not even a time out by Maccabi coach David Blatt did much as the quarter ended 17-24.
Kambala continued to play well against Huffman and Besok under the baskets. McDonald cut into the Turkish lead but then Efes jumped back out again 21-30. The closest the Yellows got to Efes in the quarter was after a basket by Safar and a three-pointer by Sharp which made the score 28-32 with four minutes to play till the half. Instead of taking advantage of the streak however, Maccabi stopped short, Parker picked up his third foul, and Kambala again gave Efes a double-digit lead at 30-40. Maccabi got back in it with a 6-0 run to end the half and trailed by only four, 36-40, going into the locker rooms.
Maccabi opened the second half in a zone which was an easy task for Stombergas to break with a pair of three-pointers which put Efes up 40-52 after 24 minutes and forced anothe Maccabi timeout. This time the little talk worked as Maccabi rolled on an 11-3 run to within 51-55. Soon, Huffman narrowed the score to 54-57 and Parker on the buzzer held Maccabi, at the end of the third quarter, within 55-59.
Maccabi opened the final quarter in a zone again, and again Stombergas shook it with another three-pointer, foot for a 58-65 Efes lead with 8 minutes to go. Maccabi again came back to within 67-71, three minutes later, but this time it continued and took the lead for the first time in the whole game, at 73-71 with 2:22 until the end. Brown answered with a three-point play with 1:41 left to make it 73-74, but Maccabi's Parker tied it again from the line on 74-74. Brown came up big again with a three-point play to set the score on 74-77 with 26 second on the clock. Parker hit two now from the line to cut the Efes lead down to 76-77. Brown finished off the upset making one from the line with 13 seconds to the end and then blocking a three-point attempt by Derick Sharpe to end the game.
Thursday, February 14, 2002
Eran Sela, Tel Aviv