It took 45 minutes, but Efes Pilsen emerged as the exclusive undefeated leader in Group B after outlasting Olympiacos 75-78 on the road in Athens on Thursday. A back-and-forth battle which Tyus Edney sent to the extra period with late free throws in regulation time was decided for good when Ender Arslan stole and made his own foul shots to secure the Efes victory. Marko Popovic led the winners with 29 points, including 6 three-pointers, before fouling out in regulation time. Kaya Peker stood tall all night for Efes and finished with 23 points, while Niksa Prkacin added 10 and 9 rebounds. Quincy Lewis popped in 16 points for Olympiacos, while Edney and Nikos Barlos had 14 each.
To continue his season-long good momentum, Kaya Peker opened the scoring for Efes with a good move inside, but soon after saw Olympiacos power forward Nikos Barlos answer with 5 points, including a triple, to put the hosts ahead 7-4. Popovic copied him to tie for Efes as both teams found driving to the basket easy. Prkacin and Peker added to the Efes total, but Adrija Zizic also connected for Olympiakos with baskets inside for a 13-13 tie. Henry Domercant got his first points and Prkacin followed for a 13-17 Efes lead, but soon Zizic countered with a nice low-post move. Both teams were shooting extremely, Olympiacos making 7 of 10 shots and Efes 9 of 13 so far. Vassilopoulos dunked on the fastbreak for the hosts, but Cenk Akyol sunk a pair of free throws for Efes. Quincy Lewis scored inside to let Olympiacos stay ahead, 22-19, after 10 minutes.
The tempo slowed in the second quarter, which started with 3 minutes of scoring silence as both teams concentrated on defense. Olympiacos finally broke that when Manolis Papamakarios connected in traffic. Olympiacos relied on its reserves until Barlos came back and nailed a triple to take the lead back, 24-22. Back-up point guard Christos Charissis made a good job anchoring the perimeter-defense for Olympiacos. Efes was struggling to get connected until Popovic chipped in a three-pointer at 26-25 that meant the guests’ first points in the second period after five-and-a-half minutes of play. Sofoklis Schortsianitis dunked in force at 30-28 for the Reds, as Efes kept losing free throws with Peker having 1/7 so far. Antonio Granger was the first guest other than Popovic to score in the second quarter to trim the deficit at 32-31. This was his first basket in the game, Efes’ just second in the second period and actually the last for both teams in the first half.
The lead exchanged hands seven times in the first 4 minutes of the third quarter as Domercant scored 4 consecutive points for Efes and Barlos 5 in a row for the Reds. The score read 39-40 in favor of Efes, to which Peker added a couple of free throws. But Olympiacos reacted with a 7-0 run highlighted by Zizic's three-point basket-plus-foul shot as the fans got really loud in the stands. Peker downed a hook shot to quiet them, but only briefly, as Edney soon connected from the corner to make it 48-44. That began a 6-0 Olympiacos blast in which excellent perimeter defense resulted in a pair of steals that ended in fastbreak layups. Popovic stepped up for Efes with a big three-pointer to cut the margin to 52-47, and the Efes defense held until Prkacin trimmed the difference further. Free throws by Popovic completed that 0-7 Efes run, but Olympiacos still hung onto a 52-51 edge after 30 minutes
Lewis opened fire from the arc to start the fourth quarter, and when Vassilopoulos copied him, the Olympiacos lead hit 59-51. Efes started another quarter scoreless, this time for more than 4 minutes until Popovic broke the silence with a big triple. Lewis answered from the arc for the Reds, but Efes was ready with another mini-run of 0-5 punctuated by another Popovis trile that made it 62-59. Edney exchanged points with Peker then drew Popovic's fourth foul and mad 2 of 3 free throws, but Peker continued being accurate from the line as Efes cut the deficit to just 66-65 with 2 minutes left. After Barlos made 1 of 2 foul shots for a 67-65 score, Popovic took matters into his hands; he pushed the ball outside after his own missed three-pointer and tried a catch-and-shoot triple 43 seconds before the buzzer. It landed for a 67-68 Efes lead. After an Olympiacos turnover, Popovic sank free throws that made it 70-67. In a foul line parade, Papamakarios hit 2 of 2 for the Reds, Antonio Granger 1 of 2 for Efes, and with 6 seconds left, Edney got fouled and hit both his for a 71-71 tie that forced overtime.
Efes had to play the extra time without Popovic or Prkacin, who had fouled out, so Kerem Gonlum and Domercant took offensive responsibility to forge a 71-75 lead for the visitors. Peker raised it to 71-76 as Olympiacos faced big trouble against the visitors' zone defense. Lewis finally scored for Olympiacos for 73-76 with 2:50 still remaining, then the Reds forced Efes into a shot-clock violation. Edney made it once again a one-point-game at 75-76, but still in favor of the guests, but after that, 2 big steals by Efes decided the winner; Domercant and Arslan got those steals and allowed Efes Pilsen to escape from Piraeus with a big road win, 78-75, after 45 minutes of battle.
Thursday, November 17, 2005