Efes Pilsen continued to improve on its chances of a higher finish in Group A when it pulled off a thrilling 74-76 road win against Climamio in Bologna, Italy on Wednesday. Horace Jenkins scored 11 points in the last 3 minutes and Drew Nicholas blocked Climamio's three-point try to win the game at the buzzer as Efes raised its record to 8-5, setting itself up for a possible run at second place in the final week of the season. Climamio, now 4-9, now has a tougher path to the Top 16: it must win the regular season finale on the road at Prokom (5-7) by 15 points or more and hope that Le Mans loses one of its last two games. Marcus Haislip led Efes with 17 points, while Ermal Kuqo added 16, Jenkins 15 and Nicholas 13. For Climamio, David Bluthenthal fired in 26 points, including 6 three-pointers, 5 of which fell in the first 12 minutes. Tyus Edney added 11 points and Marco Belinelli 10 for Climamio, which could not hold onto an eight-point lead, 66-58, with 5 minutes left.
Efes Pilsen started in high gear as Nicholas drilled a three-pointer coming off screens and Haslip made it 0-5 with a turnaround move. Bluthenthal got Climamio going with a three-pointer and Marco Belinelli dunked on the baseline for a 5-7 score after 2 minutes. Although Nicholas got loose for another three-pointer, Bluthenthal caught up and passe dhim with back-to-back triples to make it 11-12. Efes filled the lane on defense and denied penetration while going up 11-16 as Kuqo scored on a put-back. Bluthenthal, however, found his fourth straight three-pointer to keep Climamio within 14-16. Efes kept feeding its centers as Kuqo scored easily again and Haislip landed a three-pointer to make it 16-21. While continuing to stop Climamio's attack, Efes used a backdoor pass from Jenkins to Nicholas to fix a 16-23 scoreboard after 10 minutes.
Bluthenthal’s fifth three-point shot opened the second quarter by getting Climamio within 19-23 but Haislip soon replied from the same distance. Nikola Prkacin came in and got his characteristic bucket driving in close, then Nicholas scored a long jumper for the highest lead yet, 21-30. Another basket from Bluthenthal – who had 19 points in the first 14 minutes – revived Climamio and Alain Digbeu added 4 free throws to make it 25-32. Efes kept getting baskets inside, however, as Prkacin, Kerem Gonlum and Nicholas made it 29-38. Fighting for loose balls and rebounds now, Climamio was able to post a 5-0 closing run to save the half as Evtimov put back an offensive rebound and Digbeu hit free throws to make it 34-38 at intermission.
Edney and Kuqo exchanged free throws to open the second half, just before a layup by Jenkins made it 36-42. But Climamio reached downf for its highest effort now as Edney scored on a layup, Stefano Mancinelli converted an offensive rebound and Digbeu landed a big three-pointer to cap a 0-7 run that gave the hosts their first lead of the night, 43-42. A lone basket by Kuqo and a strong move by Prkacin helped Efes take back the scoreboard at 44-46, but Belinelli and Edney soon rebuilt a Climamio lead, 48-46. Three fouls shots by Haislip and a jumper by Kuqo returned it to Efes before Belinelli added a free throw and a wild third quarter ended 49-51 in favor of Efes.
Belinelli sought to save the day and possibly Climamio's future with 5 points in a row to open the last quarter, vaulting the hosts ahead by 54-51. Cuneyt Erden replied for Efes with a game-tying three-pointer, however. James Thomas and Kuqo exchanged baskets before Haislip's free throws made it 56-58. Climamio now uncorked its big run as Edney, Bluthenthal and Thomas reeled off 10 unanswered points that made it 66-58 with 5 minutes to play. Even when Nicholas drilled a three-pointer to revive Efes, Edney immediately matched it at the other end. Laron Profit put back an offensive rebound for Efes before Jenkins started his takeover, driving for one basket and running the break for another that brought the guests within 69-67 with less than 3 minutes on the clock. Off a timeout, Bluthenthal hit his sixth three-pointer, but Jenkins drove for another layup and Kuqo copied him to get Efes within a point, 72-61, with 90 seconds left. Climamio then suffered a turnover that Jenkins converted into free throws for a 72-73 Efes lead. Edney struck back for Climamio, feeding Thomas for a layup and a new lead, 74-73, for the hosts. But Jenkins wouldn't be denied. He drove to the hoop and scored again at 74-75. Climamio would get two more chances to go ahead, but Belinelli missed a three-pointer with 15 seconds left and, after Jenkins made 1 of 2 free throws, Mancinelli's desperation three-pointer to win it was blocked as Nicholas flew skyward and swatted it away.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007