Efes Pilsen edged Panathinaikos 79-78
In arguably one of the best Turkish Airlines Euroleague games so far this season, Efes Pilsen sealed its ticket to the Top 16 by edging Panathinaikos 79-78 in front of 13,800 fans in Istanbul on Wednesday. Efes improved to 5-4 and made it to the next round while Panathinaikos still leads Group D at 6-3. This results prevents CSKA from reaching the Top 16 after eight consecutive seasons reaching the Euroleague Final Four. Kerem Tunceri became the game hero by hitting the game-winning layup right at the buzzer, setting Sinan Erdem Arena on fire. Igor Rakocevic led the winners with 18 points. Tunceri and Bootsy Thornton added 15, Bostjan Nachbar had 11 while Nikola Vujcic and Kerem Gonlum each contributed 10 for Efes. Ian Vougioukas led Panathinaikos with 18 points on 8-of-9 two-pointers. Dimitris Diamantidis added 17 and 9 assists while Romain Sato had 11 points for the Greens. Rakocevic and Thornton fueled a 13-0 opening run, as Panathinaikos went scoreless in the opening 4 minutes. Efes boosted its margin to 21-7 after 10 minutes and then again to 42-24 at halftime. Antonis Fotsis, Sato and Vougioukas led the Greens' wild third-quarter comeback and a three-pointer by Drew Nicholas gave Panathinaikos its first lead, 59-61, with 8 minutes left. The game turned into a thriller, as Thornton gave Efes a 77-76 lead with 22 seconds left. Diamantidis sank a baseline jumper but Efes called timeout and Tunceri sent his team all the way to the Top 16!
Thornton got Efes going with a step-back three-pointer and Vujcic added a second-chance layup for a 5-0 lead. Panathinaikos struggled to score against Efes' aggressive defense and a big triple by Rakocevic made the Greens call timeout at 8-0. Thornton struck again from downtown and added a fast break layup to cap a 13-0 opening run. Panathinaikos went scoreless for almost 4 minutes until Vougioukas stepped up with a dunk. Vujcic erased it with a jump hook and added a backdoor layup for a 17-2 Efes margin, as Panathinaikos could not find the way to the basket. Vujcic scored around the basket but Vougioukas kept Panathinaikos within 19-5. Nicholas sank a jumper that Kerem Tunceri matched with a layup to keep Efes way ahead, 21-7, after 10 minutes.
Vougioukas scored around the basket early in the second quarter, as Panathinaikos had managed to stop Vujcic down low. Efes found a new go-to guy in Nachbar, who buried consecutive three-pointers to break the game open, 27-9. Diamantidis answered from downtown and Sato added a high-flying three-point play to make Efes call timeout at 27-15. Rakocevic stepped up with a layup-plus-foul, as the Greens now tried Nicholas and Milenko Tepic at both guards. Rakocevic scored again but free throws by Fotsis kept the guests within 32-16. Rakocevic took over with an incredible off-balance jumper but Sato made foul shots and Kostas Kaimakoglou added a layup in transition for a 34-20 score. Gonlum followed free throws with a two-handed dunk that sent the crowd to their feet at 40-22. Nicholas fed Kostas Tsartsaris for a dunk but Thornton bettered that with a triple to fix the halftime score at 42-24.
Stratos Perperoglou tried to ignite the Greens' comeback with a driving layup immediately after the break. He soon added a catch-and-shoot three-pointer to bring Panathinaikos within 42-29. Gonlum stepped up with a tip-in that Fotsis improved with an open triple. Rakocevic sank free throws but Panathinaikos played with much more aggressivity now. Sato scored down low and even when Tunceri answered from downtown, a floating layup by Fotsis kept his team within 49-36. Fotsis had a huge block on Vujcic and sank a triple in the other end to bring Panathinaikos back to life, 49-39. Perperoglou and Gonlum traded free throws but Vougioukas and Kaimakoglou brought the Greens even closer, 51-44. Gonlum hit more foul shots but a dunk by Vougioukas ignited a 0-6 run that Kaimakoglou capped with a layup for a 53-50 score. Nachbar scored twice in the low post and Vujcic added a layup but Nicholas and Panathinaikos struck from downtown for a 59-56 Panathinaikos deficit after 30 minutes.
Vougioukas shined with a layup early in the fourth quarter and a three-pointer by Nicholas completed the guests' comeback, 59-61, with 8 minutes left. Sato stayed on fire with a second-chance layup but Tunceri hit free throws and bettered Vougioukas' dunk with a three-pointer to keep Efes within 64-65. Thornton sank his trademark fallaway jumper but Diamantidis answered with an eight-meter bomb for a 66-68 score. Tunceri nailed another triple but a dunk by Vougioukas restored a 69-70 Panathinaikos lead. Thornton sank a mid-range shot while Diamantidis and Rakocevic traded free throws to turn the game into a thriller, 73-72, with 3 minutes left. Nachbar split free throws, allowing Vougioukas to tie it at 74-74. Rakocevic nailed a six-meter jumper off the dribble but Diamantidis tied the game again with free throws, 76-76, with 1:13 left. Rakocevic and Lawrence Roberts missed from downtown but Thornton grabbed a the offensive board and split free throws for a 77-76 Efes lead with 22 seconds to go. Diamantidis sank a baseline jumper but Efes called timeout with 3 seconds remaining. Tunceri drove to the basket and scored at the buzzer send Efes to the Top 16!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010