It had never lost before to a German team and it wasn't about to start on opening night in the Euroleague. Efes Pilsen jumped into the new Euroleague season grabbing a huge 63-84 win at Alba Berlin on Thursday to join the Group A leaders at 1-0. The Turkish champion made the decisive break in the third quarter, when it found its rhythm on offense. Kaspars Kambala led the winners with 20 points, Marcus Brown added 19, Antonio Granger 14 and Jurica Golemac 13. The Efes offense operated so smoothly that the the 6,000-strong Berlin crowd ended up waiting in vain for Alba to respond in kind. The home team made only 21 of 57 shots on the night while Efes made 31 of 66. Alba got most of its offense on the inside, as Quadre Lollis came up with a big double-double, 20 points and 14 rebounds, Teoman Ozturk scored 14 and Jovo Stanojevic 10, though only 2 of those after halftime.
Efes started bad, missing its first three shots and committing two turnovers which Alba took advantage of for a 5-0 lead. Both teams started running early and ame taking bad shots - even from the free-throw line. Stanojevic was impressive inside for Alba, but Brown was unstoppable outside, with 9 points as the visitors shot ahead 12-15. Not only that, but Kaya Peker was pulling rebounds almost as quickly, 7 in the first 10 minutes, as Brown scored. Kerem Tunceri finished the quarter with a huge three, which Mithat Demirel could not match for Alba, so the visitors led after 10 minutes 14-18.
Alba rallied back with a 5-0 run including a big three by Ozturk to lead 19-18. But Efes, with tough defense, started to force a lot of Alba turnovers and with a three-pointer of Marcus Brown took the biggest lead so far, 26-32. Lollis, with many rebounds and 6 points at the end of the quarter, brought Alba back into the game at 36-37. With the siren came another desperate shot, this time by Omer Onan. It was worth only two, but it landed in time for a 36-39 Efes lead. Alba's frontcourt with Stanojevic (8 points) was staying even against Kambala (also 8), while Lollis was Alba's best scorer with 11 and best rebounder with 8. But the lead belonged to Efes at halftime because of the back court scoring of Brown, with 14 points.
The second half started with a 0-9 break for Efes, lead by Brown and Kambala, that broke the game open with a 36-48 lead for the visitors. Alba's backcourt was still not scoring at all, while Stanojevic and Lollis were on the bench with four fouls. It became easy for Efes to broaden the lead minute by minute with also Golemac and Granger joining in as scorers. Ozturk hit nine of Alba's 16 points in the third quarter, but Efes was sentencing the game with 31 of its own, taking a secure 52-75 lead into the last 10 minutes. It would be too much for the home team to overcome.
Thursday, October 10, 2002
Horst Schneider, Berlin