Efes Pilsen took the big Group B showdown by downing Euroleague reigning champs Maccabi Tel Aviv 90-88 at home in Istanbul, Turkey on Thursday night, in arguably one of the best games seen so far in the Euroleague Basketball season. Efes stays unbeaten in Group B with a 4-0 record and opens a two-game margin over everyone else, as Maccabi joins Winterthur FCB, Lietuvos Rytas, Cibona and Prokom Trefl Sopot in a five-way tie for the second spot at 2-2. Marko Popovic led the winners with 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting. Henry Domercant added 19 points, Kaya Peker 17 and 8 rebounds, while Nikola Prkacin had 13 points. Maceo Baston led Maccabi with 29 points on 12-for-17 shooting and 9 rebounds, Will Solomon had 28 points on 5 of 8 three-pointers against his former team while Anthony Parker scored 11. It all came down to the final minute, in which a carousel of free throws allowed Maccabi to have the final possession of the game with 2 seconds remaining, but Parker missed a game-winning three at the buzzer.
Efes Pilsen had an outstanding start of the game and controlled the game in the early going due to its good shot selection. Domercant nailed a triple and Granger scored twice from downtown to give Efes its biggest lead in the opening quarter, 11-4, after 3 minutes. Maccabi found a go-to guy in Baston, who followed a wild dunk with a put-back layup to bring the guests within 14-12 midway through this period. Maccabi had found its rhythm, looking for its trademark up-tempo game and turning Efes' missed shots into fast break opportunities. Tal Burstein nailed a three-pointers, a dominante Baston scored inside while Anthony Parker capped this period with a wild three-point play to put Maccabi in charge, 20-23, at the end of the first quarter.
Maccabi switched to zone defence in the beginning of the second quarter and it worked well for the guests. Efes struggled to score and also failed to reach its big men. Maccabi opened this period with a 3-9 run which Derrick Sharp capped with a triple which made it a nine-point game, 23-32, after 14 minutes, as Granger went to the Efes bench with 3 fouls. Vujcic scored inside and Solomon added free throws for a 25-36 Maccabi lead. A two-handed dunk by Peker woke Efes up, igniting a 7-2 run which Popovic capped with a three for a 32-38 deficit. Solomon made free throws and Baston shined with an outstanding dunk, but Efes was now on fire. Domercant and Popovic combined for 3 quick triples, bringing Efes back into the game at 41-43. Solomon came to the rescue, nailed a three from the top of the key to fix the score at 41-46 as both teams headed to the locker rooms.
Efes improved its defense early in the third quarter and managed to stop stopped Maccabi’s run-and-gun game. Meanwhile, Peker had 4 points in a 6-0 run which put the hosts back in charge, 47-46. Baston kept dominating inside and Solomon nailed a big triple to give Maccabi a 48-53 edge, but it didn't last long. Domercant scored from downtown and dunked it on a 11-2 run which allowed Efes to get a four-point lead, 59-55, after 25 minutes. Solomon kept Maccabi alive with another three, but Efes already had the momentum of the game. Domercant fired in another jumper to boost the hosts' lead to 66-59. Maccabi found its references in Solomon and Vujcic, who brought Maccabi into the game. Vujcic banked it a short jumper to cap a 2-7 run which brought the guests within 68-66 after 30 minutes.
The last quarter was fantastic, with both teams giving their best to escape with a win. Maccabi not only managed to stay in the game, as Solomon nailed a jumper for a 70-72 lead. Efes fired back with a 7-0 run which Peker capped with a three-point play for a 77-72 lead with 6 minutes remaining. It didn't last long, as Solomon fired in another triple for a 77-77 tie, as the game turned into a real fight. Efes fired back, as Peker and Popovic fueled a 7-1 run which put Efes fully in charge at 84-78. Solomon answered again from the right corner to bring Maccabi within 84-81. Cenk Akyol and Peker combined for 3 quick points to give Efes a 87-81 edge with 2 minutes to go. Solomon had a driving layup, but his offensive foul on Maccabi's next possession seemed to seal the outcome with 45 seconds remaining. The game turned into a carousel of free throws. Baston and Peker exchanged two for a 89-85 Efes lead, Peker missed twice with 14 seconds to go, but Domercant grabbed a key offensive rebound and made 1 of 2 for a 90-87 edge. Solomon drew a foul with 5 seconds remaining and missed his second shot on purpose but Peker lost the ball at the baseline and Maccabi had another chance to tie or even win the game in the final 2 seconds. It all came down to the final shot, in which Parker missed a corner three which sealed an incredible Efes win in an outstanding game!
Thursday, November 24, 2005