Real Madrid edged Efes Pilsen 75-77
Real Madrid made it to the Quarterfinal Playoffs by edging Efes Pilsen 75-77 in Istanbul, Turkey in Top 16 Group F on Thursday night. Madrid joined Maccabi Electra as the two teams to get to the playoffs in Group F. Both teams tie for first place at 3-2 but have the tie-break advantage against Montepaschi Siena and Efes, that are tied for third place each with a 2-3 record. As such, Madrid and Maccabi will battle for first place in the Spanish capital next week, in what promises to be an outstanding showdown to get the home court advantage in the upcoming best-of-five playoffs. Meanwhile, Montepaschi will host Efes knowing that the winner will only be third at the end of the Top 16. Jorge Garbajosa led the winners with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Sergio Llull and Felipe Reyes each added 12 points, Darjus Lavrinovic had 11 while Marko Jaric got 10 for Madrid. Mario Kasun and Charles Smith each had 13 points for Efes while Bostjan Nachbar added 12. Kasun added 11 rebounds for a double-double Llull and Garbajosa each struck twice from downtown in a 2-12 run that gave Madrid its first double-digit lead, 25-37, midway through the second quarter. Peker, Ermal Kuqo and Thornton brought the hosts within 52-54 late in the third quarter. A free throw by Pablo Prigioni seemed to seal the outcome, 67-73, with 1:14 to go. Nachbar led the hosts' comeback, singlehandedly getting Efes within 75-76 with 2.7 seconds left. Llull drew a foul and missed his second shot on purpose to run the game clock down.
Madrid coach Ettore Messina placed center Ante Tomic in his team's starting lineup to guard Kasun, who got Efes going with a two-handed dunk. Garbajosa sank a baseline jumper, as the guests tried to slow down the game tempo in the early going. Efes controlled its defensive board and a driving basket by Thornton gave his team a 4-2 edge. Garbajosa answered from downtown and Tomic sank a jump hook for a 4-7 Madrid lead. Efes struggled to get Kasun and Kaya Peker involved and a corner three-pointer by Jaric boosted the guests' lead to 4-10. Kasun rescued Efes with a put-back basket that Tomic matched with a quick dunk in the other end. Kasun kept pacing Efes but a tip-in by Garbajosa made it a six-point game, 8-14. Kerem Tunceri sank free throws off Madrid's fifth team foul and then bettered Lavrinovic's jump hook with a three-pointer to get Efes within 13-16. Lavrinovic stayed on fire with a six-meter jumper that Peker erased with free throws. Reyes came off the bench and immediately nailed a turnaround jumper. Smith shined with a backdoor layup and more free throws by Tunceri and Louis Bullock fixed the score at 19-23 after 10 minutes.
Efes improved its defense early in the second quarter, not allowing easy shots from either corners. Nachbar took over with a driving layup but a technical foul on Efes coach Ergin Ataman allowed Bullock to restore a 21-25 Madrid edge. Thornton sank free throws, as Madrid tried twin point guards with Prigioni and Llull together on court. Llull sank a big three-pointer and even when Kasun got the crowd involved with a third-chance layup, Garbajosa struck again from downtown for a 25-31 Madrid lead. Llull took over with a rainbow triple, as Efes kept trying to get Kasun involved without much success. Garbajosa downed an eight-meter bomb that gave Madrid its first double-digit lead, 25-37, making Efes call a much-needed timeout. Igor Rakocevic buried a four-meter jumper, as the game turned into a physical battle. Llull stayed on fire with a fast break layup that Kasun matched with a turnaround jumper to get Efes within 29-39. Efes tried to tall lineup with Smith and Preston Shumpert at both wings but Prigioni fed Reyes for an open jumper and a three-point play that gave Madrid its biggest margin, 29-44, at halftime.
Peker tried to ignite the hosts' comeback with free throws immediately after the break. Smith collected a steal and raced downcourt for a layup that brought Efes within 33-44. Kasun took over with a put-back layup that Bullock matched with a driving basket. Madrid went back to its original game plan, as Tomic returned to the floor to guard Kasun and soon stepped up with a jump hook. Peker surprised Madrid's defense with a three-pointer - his third in 145 Euroleague career games - and Thornton copied him soon after that to bring Efes even closer, 41-48. Garbajosa silenced the crowd with a bomb from downtown but Kasun banked in a jump hook. Efes tried to improve its low post game with Peker and Kuqo together on court. Reyes hit free throws but Smith followed a huge three-pointer with a driving layup to make Madrid call timeout at 48-52. Reyes sank more foul shots but Kuqo erased it with a layup and a fast break basket by Thornton made it a two-point game, 52-54. Peker missed 4 straight free throws and Reyes stayed on fire with an acrobatic layup that gave Madrid some fresh air, 52-56, at the end of the third quarter.
Jaric buried a triple early in the fourth quarter but a driving layup by Bojan Popovic kept Efes within 54-59. The hosts tried to open the floor with Nachbar against Garbajosa at power forward. Madrid tried to run its offense through Reyes without much success. Daniel Santiago, who has stepped on court for the first time earlier in this fourth quarter, hit 3-of-4 foul shots to bring the hosts as close as 57-60 with under 6 minutes left. Llull silenced the crowd with a corner three-pointer but Santiago quickly answered with a put-back layup. Jaric struck from downtown, as Efes knew already that it needed to win to stay alive in the Top 16 race. Nachbar hit free throws and Efes called timeout at 61-66 to adjust its defense. Lavrinovic did not miss from the foul line and soon added a layup but Santiago singlehandedly kept Efes within 65-70 with over 2 minutes to go. Rakocevic and Lavrinovic traded free throws but Reyes collected a steal that allowed Prigioni to seal the outcome, 67-73, with 1:14 left. Efes kept trying, as Nachbar followed free throws with a wild triple for a 73-75 deficit with 18 seconds left. Jaric made 1-of-3 free throws and a put-back layup by Nachbar made it a one-point game, 75-76, with 2.7 seconds to go. Efes fouled on Llull, who missed his second attempt on purpose to run the clock down and send Madrid to the playoffs.
Thursday, March 4, 2010