Efes Pilsen took the high road into the Top 16 from Group A by manhandling Olympiacos with a 72-91 road win that was seldom that close in the second half at Peace and Friendship Stadium in Pireaus, Greece on Wednesday. Its five-year run of dominance over the Reds continued with an eighth consecutive win - half of those away victories - to lift Efes to a 7-5 record and a place in the Top 16. Olympiacos, meanwhile, fell to 9-3 and could have jeapordized its chances of winning the group. Efes established double-digit leads in the second quarter and strapped on booster rockets in the third to amass margins as high as 35 points midway through the fourth. Marcus Haislip paced Efes in the first half and finished with 22 points, while Drew Nicholas took over after the break to down a floor-high 24. Horace Jenkins added 18 points and Ermal Kuqo 11, while the team defense of starred throughout, limiting the Reds to 40 points after three quarters. Henry Domercant led five double-figure scorers for Panathinaikos with 15 points. Panagiotis Vasilopoulos, Alex Acker and Giannis Bourousis added 12 each and Scoonie Penn 11. Efes downed 11 of its 25 three-point attempts as compared with 4 of 15 for Olympiacos.
Olympiacos got the scoreboard rolling on a jumper by Domercant before Efes went directly to its go-to guy of late, Haislip, who knocked down a triple on his first shot. Bourousis and Kuqo exchanged baskets in the paint, but Olympiacos looked rather nervous early, making only 3 of its first 9 shots. Soon, Efes went ahead 7-12 on a pair of free throws by Hasilip. Vasilopoulos came off the bench to rejuvenate the Reds with his energy and his trademark defense. He stole and finished the fastbreak, after which Penn used his quickness to punish Efes with back-to-back jumpers. His flashy drive then capped a 10-2 run that left Olympiacos ahead 17-16 after 10 minutes. Efes had made just 1 of 8 three-point attempts until then against the Olympiacos zone defense.
That changed in the second quarter, as Efes came out on fire, with Haislip dominating on offense and Olympiacos struggling to find open shots against the visitors' swarming defense. The Reds were held without a field goal for 5 minutes as Efes built a 19-28 advantage behind another basket from Haislip. Finally, Acker ended the Olympiacos drought with a three-point bomb that got the crowd going, but Kuqo bettered him with a basket and a pair of free throws for the first double-digit lead, 32-42. Domercant tried to pick up the scoring slack and bail out the Reds, but Jenkins was more accurate, nailing a triple to boost the lead and force Olympiacos coach Pini Gershon to call a timeout. Efes was in absolute control of the tempo, not allowing Olympiacos to step on the gas and embark on its usual run-and-gun basketball, and coasting into the half ahead by 28-36.
Haislip, the Euroleague's top shot blocker, started the second half by emphatically rejecting Ryan Stack before Nicholas unleashed a triple to keep the momentum going for Efes. Andrija Zizic answered back with a long jumper, his first points of the night, but Nicholas matched those points at the foul line. Stopping Nicholas turned into an uphill battle for the Reds as the former Euroleague scoring champ loaded his three-point pistol twice, nailing both, while in the meantime feeding Haislip for a monstrous dunk and a free throw that sent the guests galloping ahead 39-56. Olympiacos was now losing its grip, missing 6 shots in a row and committing 3 turnovers while Haislip dictated the flow with consecutive blocks. Efes, on the other hand, attacked at full speed and, thanks to a couple of downtown rockets by Jenkins, used a jaw-dropping 1-16 blast to command a 40-67 lead after 30 minutes.
The fourth quarter got underway with Nikola Prkacin scoring on layup for Efes and Jenkins soon putting the game completely out of reach with another triple and an uncontested drive. By the time Nicholas added 4 perfect free throws, the scoreboard read 46-80 and the Olympiacos fans were jeering. There was nothing the Reds could do right, and Efes kept its composure by following the do-no-wrong trio of Nicholas, Haislip and Jenkins. They stayed on fire, pushing the margin to a high of 54-89 before heading back to Instanbul with their Top 16 qualification in their pockets.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007