Efes Pilsen provided the fireworks in Group A on Thursday by thrashing Armani Jeans Milano 85-57 at home in Istanbul, Turkey iin Group B. Efes made 17 of 31 three-pointers and had 7 apiece from Marko Popovic and Henry Domercant, who provided a big show to its many fans in Abdi Ipekci. Efes ties for the top spot in Group B with Lietuvos Rytas, both with a 6-2 record, while Armani Jeans dropped to 2-6 and needs a big comeback to keep its Top 16 hopes alive. Popovic led the winners with 29 points on 7 of 9 threes, Domercant nailed 7 of 11 triples on his way to 21 points while Nikola Prkacin had 14 points and Antonio Granger 13 for Efes. Massimo Bulleri led Milano with 14 points, Sven Schultze and Giacomo Galanda each had 12 while Dante Calabria added 10 for the guests. Efes led 35-28 at halftime and buried 10 three-pointers in the second half, boosting its margin to 67-45 early in the fourth quarter to seal the outcome.
Both teams struggled to start in the early going, as both Efes Pilsen and Armani Jenas combined for 1-for-14 shooting in the opening 5 minutes. The guests went scoreless in the opening two minutes of the game, while free throws by Popovic and Granger gave Efes a 4-0 lead. Preston Shumpert scored in the paint and Galanda added a bomb from downtown to tie the game, 5-5, midway through this period. Efes found a go-to guy in Popovic, who stepped up with back-to-back layups to put Efes in charge, 9-5. Armani Jeans missed injured center Joseph Blair in the middle, while Popovic fired in two bombs from downtown to cap a 12-2 run in which he had 10 points to give Efes a 17-7 lead. Calabria slashed for a layup and Galanda nailed his second three, but Granger answered from downtown to keep the hosts in charge, 20-12, after 10 minutes.
Efes kept its excellent shot selection early in the second quarter and found a new offensive reference in Domercant, who fired in three consecutive shots from the arc, the third one from the top of the key to make it a 15-point game, 29-14, after 13 minutes. Armani Jeans got back in track once Shumpert fired in a jumper, igniting a 0-7 run in which Schultze followed a baseline jumper with a three-pointer which brought the guests within 29-21. Granger shined again with a triple but a red hot Schultze copied him in the other end to keep Milano into the game at 32-24. Bulleri’s first points came with a bomb from downtown and it happened to be the final basket of the half, fixing the score at 35-28 as both teams headed to the locker rooms.
It was a cold night in Abdi Ipekci, but Efes stayed hot with three-point range in the early minutes of the third quarter. Popovic fired in a triple, Domercant immediately copied him from downtown and even when Galanda stepped up with consecutive baskets for Milano, Domercant fired up the crowd with his fifth triple of the night which Prkacin followed with a layup, good for a 46-32 lead after 24 minutes. Milano struggled to score now against Efes' trademark man-to-man defense, while Prkacin was now unstoppable in offense. Another three by Domercant make it a 19-point game, 55-36. Even when Galanda and Bulleri combined for 11 points in this period and a matchup zone defense helped the guests to slow down the Efes offense, a final layup by Galanda only brought Armani Jeans within 57-45 at the end of the third quarter.
Armani Jeans needed a quick comeback to get back into the game, but it just did not happen. Efes opened the final period with a game-breaking 10-0 run to finish with all the guests' comeback hopes. Popovic and Granger nailed consecutive threes for a 67-45 Efes margin with 7 minutes to go. Efes kept nailing one triple another another, as Popovic and Domercant simply stayed on fire. By the time Domercant fired in his seventh three-pointer, Efes led 76-50 and the outcome was already clear. Prkacin dunked it and Popovic still had time for another three which sealed the hosts' win in style. Efes finished the game with 17 of 31 triples and closed 2005 with a spectacular win 85-57 in Abdi Ipekci which allows the hosts to keep tying for the top spot in Group B.
Thursday, December 22, 2005