Partizan mt:s edged Efes Pilsen 65-67
Partizan edged Efes Pilsen Thursday night in Istanbul 65-67 in a tight game that finished both teams’ Turkish Airlines Euroleague campaigns. Vladimir Lucic scored a spectacular game-winner in the closing seconds to give Partizan fans some renewed hope for the future despite crashing out of the Top 16 with a 1-5 record. Jan Vesely paced the winners with 23 points and 6 rebounds, while Curtis Jerrells and Dusan Kecman added 8 points each and combined for 12 boards. For Efes, Igor Rakocevic notched 19 points and Lawrence Roberts recorded 9 plus 7 rebounds and 3 blocks, while Kerem Gonlum and Sinan Guler tacked on 8 points each, with the first also corralling 8 rebounds in defeat.
Efes made sure to get off to an intimidating start with a Gonlum three-point play. But Partizan managed to answer the punch from the get-go and not deter from its offensive gameplan. With the game settled at a half court game, the pick-and-roll was the key play for the visitors on offense. Nathan Jawai worked from the high-post and dished to a cutting Vesely, who streaked for three straight dunks that forced an Efes timeout after 10 unanswered points by the Serbian champs. With Rakocevic not his usual sweet-shooting self at the start of the game, the guard finally hit a jumper to end the drought and Kerem Tunceri entered the game for the hosts, who were able to get some kind of an offensive rhythm going and a defensive presence to match, with an impressive Roberts blocking a Rasko Katic shot attempt to end the opening quarter at 12-21.
The pace quickened in the second quarter, with both teams trying to get out on the transition game. The Efes defense keyed on Jawai’s quick post position, but the center was still able to get some back-to-the-basket buckets, even against the intimidating presence of Roberts. The home forward kept active on offense too, slamming down a put-back off a Nikola Vujcic missed fast-break layup, and Efes was back at a two-possession difference: 22-28. The hosts kept attacking the heart of Partizan’s defense, as Roberts scored on another dunk and the visitors struggled to hit perimeter shots, losing the rebounding battle and exposing themselves to the fast break, as Rakocevic scored it 30-32 on a transition layup. Another penetration by the veteran guard tied the game and Bootsy Thornton would have gotten Efes the lead if not for a spectacular come-from-behind block by Lucic. As both squads stopped to catch their breath, the half ended at 34-37.
Efes started the second half with renewed defensive energy, jumping the passing lanes and boxing out Katic off his preferred baseline spots. But Partizan did a good job attacking the rim and the glass, getting second-chance points and keeping in front. Jerrells directed the offense headily and scored on a beautiful penetration bankshot before Tunceri assured the hosts stayed in the hunt with a triple that made it 41-45. The Turk playmaker dueled with Jerrells for most of the quarter and Roberts kept sealing the paint, as Thornton was able to shake loose for a layup to tie it before the visitors responded and closed the period with the lead, 47-49.
Tunceri took a step forward to start the final quarter with a nice dish for a Gonlum layup, but Vesely rattled home another one-handed slam and would have had another on an alley-oop if not for a low pass from Jerrells as Partizan returned to the driver’s seat at 49-54 with under eight minutes to go. Rakocevic then drilled back-to-back three-pointers to make it a 1-point game and Vesely showed off his range to go with his hops with a beyond-the-arc shot. Jerrells’s bank-in pulled the visitors ahead again 55-61. Vesely added a nice block on the defensive end to an already impressive all-around performance, as Efes struggled to find a rhythm, and James Gist punished the rim on a fast break before Vesely netted his 23rd point on a fallaway jumper to set a 57-65 score with three minutes left in the game. Efes tried to press defensively to force the visitors into turnovers and moved the ball patiently on offense, finding a wide open Guler for a three that made it a one possession game, 62-65, with 75 ticks left. The home guard had a chance to tie it on the next possession, but whiffed on his triple chance only to redeem himself after a Katic miss with an improbable fast-break three-point play that evened the score at 65-65. Partizan then committed a turnover, but Tunceri could not drop the winning jumper with 25 seconds left on the clock. With the score tied and the game on the line, Lucic took the ball and the pressure, draining a one-handed baseline shot that had to be reviewed by the referees. The game-winning shot was awarded, and Tunceri’s last-second attempt did not fall.
Thursday, March 3, 2011