Unicaja survives thriller for win at Efes
In a close game that saw 22 lead changes and came down to the final seconds, Unicaja Malaga bounced back from its last week’s home loss by edging Anadolu Efes Istanbul 72-74 on the road Friday. Unicaja improved to 1-1 in Group E, while Efes dropped to 0-2. Zoran Dragic led the winners with 17 points. Ryan Toolson added 16, Vladimir Stimac had 11 while Fran Vazquez scored 10 for Unicaja. Scotty Hopson led Efes with 15 points. Birkan Batuk added a career-high 12 points and Dusko Savanovic had 11 for the hosts. Efes overcame a slow start to get its first lead, 15-13, on a layup by Batuk. Fran Vazquez and Dragic helped Unicaja to a 17-20 edge after 10 minutes. The second quarter saw 12 lead changes and at the end of it, a jumper by Vazquez gave the guests a 37-38 lead. An outstanding Hopson and a jumper by Zoran Planinic gave Efes a 59-54 lead after three quarters. Unicaja stayed in the game and free throws by Toolson gave the guests the lead for good, 68-70. Vazquez and Toolson combined for 4 free throws in the final 9.3 seconds. Efes had a chance to tie the game, but Kerem Gonlum could not score on Efes's final possession.
First quarter: Unicaja starts strong, gets lead
Dragic got Unicaja going with a corner three-pointer and a six-meter jumper by Toolson soon gave the guests a 0-5 lead. Hopson stepped up with a two-handed dunk that Toolson matched with a mid-range jumper. Milko Bjelica shined with a three-point play and free throws by Hopson tied it at 7-7. Nik Caner-Medley rescued Unicaja with a close basket that Savanovic matched at the other end. Caner-Medley kept pacing the guests with a slam but Savanovic answered with a six-meter jumper. Earl Calloway scored in transition, Kostas Vasileiadis made free throws and a put-back layup by Batuk gave Efes its first lead, 15-13. Mindaugas Kuzminskas sank a corner triple, Vasileiadis hit a jumper and a put-back slam by Fran Vazquez restored a 17-18 Unicaja edge. Efes struggled to find open shots while a driving layup by Dragic boosted the guests' lead to 17-20 at the end of the first quarter.
Second quarter: Unicaja after 12 lead changes
Unicaja tried a more versatile frontcourt with Carlos Suarez, Kuzminskas and Vazquez together on court. Meanwhile, Efes tried Batuk and Jamon Gordon at both guards. Hopson took over with a fast break basket, which Semih Erden followed with a layup to put Efes back ahead, 21-20. Kuzminskas made free throws, but Gordon matched those with a layup. Dragic shined with a put-back layup, but Savanovic scored around the basket for a 25-24 Efes edge. Stimac scored around the basket before free throws by Bjelica provided another lead change, 27-26. After Stimac hit a jump hook, Gordon nailed a mid-range jumper. A three-pointer by Dragic put Unicaja back ahead, 29-31. An unstoppable Stimac scored again, but Bjelica answered with a driving layup and a wild put-back basket by Gonlum tied the game, 33-33. Jayson Granger sank 2 free throws. Gordon struck from downtown and a baseline jumper by Vazquez restored a 36-37 Unicaja edge at halftime.
Third quarter: Hopson, Batuk put Efes ahead
Erden scored down low right after the break and soon added another layup for a 40-37 Efes edge. Savanovic made a technical free throw and an acrobatic reverse layup by Batuk made it a 6-point game. Caner-Medley tried to change things with a layup that Erden matched with free throws. Unicaja improved its defense and found a go-to guy in Vazquez, who followed a high-flying tip-in with a backdoor layup to close within 45-43. Hopson buried a six-meter jumper, but Stimac finished a third-chance Unicaja offense with a tip-in and a three-point play by Toolson put Efes back ahead, 47-48. Batuk nailed a three-pointer and Stimac split free throws, as Unicaja opted for a smaller lineup with Suarez at power forward. Savanovic scored around the basket, Dragic answered with a driving layup and a jumper by Hopson gave Efes a 54-41 margin. Hopson ignited the crowd with an off-balance three-pointer. Toolson struck from downtown before a jumper by Planinic gave Efes a 59-54 edge
Fourth quarter: Drama till the final whistle
Dragic dunked off a steal early in the fourth quarter, but Savanovic matched it with a four-meter jumper. Suarez scored in penetration and a fast break layup by Toolson made Efes call timeout at 61-60. The hosts kept struggling to score and Calloway buried his trademark step-back three-pointer to put Unicaja back ahead, 61-63, after a 0-7 run. Bjelica hit a five-meter jumper and a three-pointer by Batuk gave the hosts a 66-63 edge. Dragic drew a couple of shooting fouls and hit 3 free throws to tie the game again, 66-66, with four minutes left. Stimac followed a huge defensive stop with a four-meter jumper, but a layup by Gonlum tied it again, 68-68. After Toolson hit free throws, Savanovic and Caner-Medley missed respective shots and a free throw by Erden turned the game into a thriller, 69-70, with 1:02 left. Efes fouled Vazquez with 9.3 seconds left. He made both attempts for a 69-72 Unicaja edge. Hopson drew a foul and made free throws, but so did Toolson at the other end with 5.2 seconds to go. Unicaja fouled Gordon, who intentionally missed his second attempt. Gonlum got the offensive rebound, but could not score, allowing Unicaja to walk away with a win.
Friday, January 10, 2014