Efes Pilsen registered its 11th win in the last 12 Euroleague games in Group A by thrashing Olympiacos 80-54 at home in Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday. Efes, already a top seed in the Top 16 Draw, improved to 11-2 in the standings and can still pass Climamio Bologna for first place in Group A before the regular season ends. Meanwhile, Olympiacos dropped to 3-10, with no chance to make it to the next round. Kaya Peker led the winners with 20 points and Ermal Kuqo added 11, while 7 other Efes player scored 5 points or more. Roger Mason Jr. led Olympiacos with 15 points, all on three-pointers, while Robert Gulyas added 12. Efes used a 15-2 run in which Peker had 9 points to break the game in the second quarter and keep double-digit leads until the final buzzer.
Mini-runs began the game. Olympiacos had the first 5 points on a triple by Mason and a hook from Ivica Jurkovic. Efes responded with more than double those points however, as Goran Nikolic and Kuqo ended finished an 11-0 run that had the hosts in charge suddenly. Olympiacos took its turn with Boris Gorenc making a layup and Marque Perry a triple, after wheich the rest of the first quarter as head-to-head. Behind several points from Domercant, Efes led until Mason tied 17-17 on a triple, but Efes found a layup by Peker and free throws from Willie Solomon to finish the first 10 minutes ahead by 21-17
The well-known Efes defense took control of the game in the second quarter, forcing mistakes on Olympiacos and taking advantage of the resulting fastbreaks. Consecutive points from Peker extended the lead and then Ender Arslan stole and fed Dusan Kecman for a fastbreak dunk that made it 32-20. Peker's free throws soon pushed the lead to 14 points, at 36-22. Perry and Mason tried to answer for Olympiacos, but the visitors could do nothing inside against the Efes big men. Kuqo made it 43-25 in minute 19 with a layup before Valentin Pastal's triple boosted the Efes lead to 46-27 at the half.
In the third quarter, Olympiacos keep struggling while Efes extended the lead slowly. Efes found easy points at the paint with Peker and Niksa Prkacin, whose layup made the score 57-31. Olympiacos was held to 4 points in almost 6 minutes as Efes roared ahead by 59-31, again on free throws by Peker. Efes relaxed now and Olympiacos managed to reduce the gap to 26 points on a triple by Mason as the third quarter ended 62-36.
In the last quarter, Efes slowed down and Olympiacos worked harder on defense, holding the hosts to 7 points over 6 mnutes. Mason continued to add triples and cut the deficit to 23 points, at 65-42. The remaining minutes were full of missed attempts from both sides as Efes kept defending the difference until the end to walk off the floor in front of its fans with a chance still to win Group A on the road next week, but also with the promise of returning in good form for the Top 16.
Wednesday, February 2, 2005
Gokhan Ture, Istanbul