Larkin hits 10 threes again to lift Efes
Shane Larkin made EuroLeague history again by scoring 40 points on a record-tying 10 three-point shots as Anadolu Efes Istanbul clinched home-court advantage in the playoffs by downing Olympiacos Piraeus 91-79 on Friday at the Sinan Erdem Dome. Efes improved its league-leading record to 24-4. Combined with a loss by Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, Efes is assured of finishing as one of the top four teams at the end of the regular season. Olympiacos dropped to 12-16 to share ninth place in the standings. The Reds had a fast start and led by 8 points, but Larkin, Vasilije Micic and Tibor Pleiss fueled an 18-2 first-quarter run to give Efes a double-digit lead that it never relinquished. Larkin made 10 of 15 three-point shots, and also had 5 assists and 3 steals. Pleiss scored 13 points, Micic had 12 and 9 assists, and Bryant Dunston, in his first extended action since November, scored 11. Octavius Ellis had 14 points for Olympiacos, Dwight Buycks added 11 points and 8 assists, and Sasha Vezenkov finished with 10 in a losing effort.
Olympiacos had a strong start, with Ellis scoring 4 points and Kostas Papanikolaou knocking down back-to-back triples to open a 5-13 lead in less than 3 minutes. After a timeout, however, Larkin and Micic downed three-pointers to spark an 18-2 Efes run. Larkin strung together 8 points, including a triple, then connected with Pleiss twice, including an alley-oop dunk to open a 29-19 lead. A triple from Buycks cut the difference to 29-24 at the end of the first quarter, but Micic soon scored 5 to restore the double-digit margin. A put-back from Adrien Moerman and a three-point play from Dunston helped the hosts stretch the margin to 49-34 before Buycks and Ellis fueled a late Olympiacos run to within 51-41 at halftime. James Anderson's three-pointer for Efes was the only basket in the first 3 minutes of the third quarter before Larkin lit it up, hitting 3 triples in a span of 1 minutes and 45 seconds to open a 63-46 lead. Wade Baldwin IV had a jumper and drove for a reverse layup for the Reds, but Larkin answered with a his seventh shot from the arc, which came with a free throw, and Efes took a 72-55 lead into the fourth quarter. Baldwin struck from deep and Olympiacos opened the final quarter with a 0-9 run. Vezenkov strung together 6 points that cut the difference to 74-66 before a tip-in from Chris Singleton and Larkin's fastbreak layup stopped the bleeding. Brandon Paul hit a three-pointer, but the Reds could not get closer before Larkin knocked down his eighth triple, and soon his ninth to make it 86-72 with 2 minutes to go. Larkin wrapped things up with his 10th three-pointer before getting a standing ovation from a jubilant sold out Sinan Erdem dome.
Shane Larkin show
Larkin became the first player in EuroLeague this century to score 40 or more points twice, after having broken the single-game record with 49 earlier this season. It also marks the second time this season Larkin hit 10 triples, the mark that Andrew Goudelock originally set in November 2014.
There were no turnovers in the first 6 minutes of the game, but finding itself behind 11-17, Efes stepped it up on defense and went on to force 15 Olympiacos miscues before the end of the third quarter. Meanwhile, Efes had no turnovers in the first quarter, and just 6 after 30 minutes, by which time the hosts held a 17-point lead.
Trio fuels Efes
Larkin, Vasilije Micic and Tibor Pleiss combined to score 28 of 29 first-quarter points for Efes, including all of them in an 18-2 takeover run. Larkin and Micic combined to dish all 9 of Efes's assists in that quarter. The trio put hosts in front and Efes never looked back.
Dunston makes impact
Bryant Dunston made his EuroLeague return on Wednesday in Tel Aviv, but played less than 4 minutes there. Tonight was the first true action for Dunston since Round 7 against Olympiacos, his former team. Tonight, Dunston scored 11 points, making 3 of 3 two-pointers and 5 of 5 free throws in 18 minutes of action.
In a rarity on the basketball floors these days, coach Ergin Ataman did not make a single substitution in the first quarter as his starting lineup played the entire 10 minutes. Olympiacos coach Georgios Bartzokas used a very similar strategy, making only one substitution after 8 minutes and 50 seconds of the game.
Next week in Round 29 on Thursday, Efes will stay at home and host Valencia Basket while Olympiacos will travel to face AX Armani Exchange Milan.
Friday, March 6, 2020