Efes downs Maccabi for 8th straight win
Anadolu Efes Istanbul took a step closer to qualifying for the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs with a 66-90 road win at Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv in their postponed Round 23 game on Tuesday. Efes led from tipoff to buzzer and was up by as many as 30 points in the fourth quarter on the way to a 19-10 record and its eighth consecutive victory. Maccabi fell to 11-17 and is all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs with its sixth loss in the last seven games. Shane Larkin and Vasilije Micic led the winners with 15 points apiece, while Kruno Simon and Tibor Pleiss added 10 each while missing just 1 shot between them. Scottie Wilbekin led Maccabi with 15 points while Ante Zizic scored 14 and Tyler Dorsey 10.
Sertac Sanli, Micic and Simon gave Efes a quick lead before Omri Casspi's second basket and feed to Zizic cut the difference to 6-8. Micic busted his second triple while Adrien Moerman assisted Simon and scored twice himself to make it 11-17. Maccabi's free throws were offset by Larkin drilling from deep at 15-20. Simon and Othello Hunter traded points for a 17-22 Efes lead after 10 minutes. James Anderson hit from long-distance and Pleiss dropped a jump-hook for a new high lead of 19-27 for Efes. Larkin fed Pleiss for a three-point play and the big man then stuck a triple to suddenly make it 20-33, to which Anderson added another triple. Wilbekin ended the 0-9 run of Efes from downtown. Pleiss had 2 blocks and fed Rodrigue Beaubois for a triple at 23-39. Dragan Bender and Zizic scored inside for Maccabi to trim the difference to 31-44. A basket-plus-free throw combo by Micic left a 31-47 halftime score.
Wilbekin, Zizic and Dorsey all scored out of the second-half gate before Larkin and Dorsey traded triples at 40-50. Simon's 2 baskets and Chris Singleton's triple put Efes in front 40-57. Elijah Bryant scored for Maccabi but Larkin stuck a pair of triples for a new high lead of 42-63. Micic and Chris Singleton kept it going as Efes expanded the difference to 47-71 after three quarters. Efes was content to exchange baskets in the final quarter, but Larkin drilled another shot from deep, his fifth, as the score hit a new high lead of 51-77 with 6 minutes left. After Beaubois made it 58-84 with 3:30 to play the only question was by how much Efes would win, but the victory was going back to Istanbul with the visitors for sure.
Making shots and taking names
The difference in the final score could be told almost completely in the three-point scoring column. Led by Larkin, who made 5 of 9 triples, Efes as a team buried 14 of 26 with seven players taking part for an accuracy rate of 53.9%. Maccabi took almost the same amount of threes but hit just 7 of 25 with four players connecting from deep. The difference was even starker during the game's first 25 minutes, by which time Efes had hit 10 of 16 to Maccabi's 3 of 16 and the lead was already climbing beyond the hosts' reach.
Pleiss plugs in
You couldn't tell on Tuesday that Efes center Tibor Pleiss had played all of 14 minutes and scored all of 6 points in the previous four months due to injuries. In half that time during Tuesday's first two quarters, Pleiss had 8 points without a miss to go with 3 blocks, 1 rebound and 1 assist for a PIR of 13 already, reminding everyone that Efes has more weapons even than have been apparent during its current winning streak.
Maccabi head coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos was toasted before the game for what was his 200th appearance on the bench in his EuroLeague career, 121 with Olympiacos Piraeus and the last 79 with the team from Tel Aviv. His career record is now 118-82.
Standing against racism
Maccabi used its pre-game warmups and Efes its game jerseys to send an unequivocal message opposing racism ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21. "End Racism", "Unity", "Equality", and "End Discrimination" were among the messages the players wore before and during the game. All EuroLeague teams will be observing the same call to action against racism during Round 30 on Thursday and Friday.
Efes goes right back at it later this week with a big road date with FC Bayern Munich (18-11) on Friday in Round 30. Maccabi's second scheduled game this week, a Round 30 home date with LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, has been postponed to April 4.
Tuesday, March 16, 2021