Lietuvos Rytas threw its name squarely in the ring of Group B contenders when it took its third consecutive victory in dominating fashion, 51-72 over previously undefeated Efes Pilsen on Thursday. As impressive as the victory was where it took place, at Apdi Ipekci arena, the court in Istanbul where Efes had not lost in 21 previous games in the Euroleague and Turkish competitions. Lietuvos Rytas raised its record to 3-2, good for a share of second place, while Efes fell to 4-1. All five L. Rytas starters scored between 12 and 15 points, led by Robertas Javtokas with 15. Haris Mujezinovic, with 14, and Simas Jasaitis, 13, sent the visitors to big early leads. Fred House added 13 points and Roberts Stelmahers 12 plus 6 assists for the winners, who outrebounded Efes 25-36. Efes had problems early as Euroleague MVP for November, center Kaya Peker, left the game with a groin injury. Niksa Prkacin ended up leading the hosts with 16 points, while Ender Arslan had 10.
After an ceremony to give Peker the his monthly MVP award, L. Rytas had an impressive start as Mujezinovic and Jasaitis started with triples to shoot the guests ahead 2-8. Then, Mujezinovic detonated a spectacular dunk to make it 2-10 in a matter of just 2 minutes and 3 seconds. If Efes was surprised then, things were about to get worse. Soon after the next basket by Jasaitis made it 4-12, Peker left the court with a groin injury having scored all of the home team's points until then. Before long, Jasaitis was jacking in his second triple and L. Rytas had a double-digit lead, 9-19. Despite 5 points in a row by Antonio Granger, Efes seemed to struggle all during the quarter as the gap widened to 14 points on a triple by Fred House before the quarter ended with L. Rtyas holding a 14-26 advantage.
Stelmahers joined the visitors' three-point party with a shot from the arc to start the second quarter. Domercant tried to rally Efes with 5 points to make it 19-31, but was answered by House and Stelmahers. Peker tried to return early in the quarter but went back to bench immediately, making it clear to the home crowd that he could not continue. Meanwhile the visitors opened a 17-point differance, 19-36, on a layup by Matthew Nielsen. When Niksa Prkacin and Marko Popovic combined for 5 points for Efes, Jasaitis reappeared to match them shot for shot, preserving a 24-41 lead. Defenses dominated the last few minutes, and it was all that Efes could do to trim the L. Rytas lead by a basket, 28-43, at the half.
L. Rytas kept beating the expectations in the third quarter, too, putting up a defensive wall from the start. Javtokas and Mujezinovic were the only players on the floor to score during the first 4 minutes, as their 9 points combined boosted the guests ahead by 22 points, 28-50. Even when Prkacin broke the ice for Efes, Javtokas and Mujezinovic answered him, as did House to young Akyol Cenk as the L. Rytas lead rose to 34-57. As Efes suffered more turnovers, Javtokas finished the quarter with a layup that made it 36-60, effectively taking the home crowd completely out of the picture.
Efes gave no sign of rallying in the final quarter, and L. Rytas no sign of letting the hosts do so. Prkacin scored a series of baskets for Efes that got the difference under 20 ponts again, 42-61, but that took time and L. Rytas came up with answers to most of his points. After all scoring stalled in the middle of the quarter, with L. Rytas still up 42-63, the visitors relaxed and focused on finishing the win without letting their lead go down. The succeeded in that, too, as they had everything all night, serving Efes a tough first loss in Group B by 21 points.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Gokhan Ture, Istanbul