Efes Pilsen held on for a hard-fought 61-60 win over Partizan Belgrade on Thursday night at Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul, Turkey. A clutch Milos Vujanic three-pointer with a minute-and-a-half remaining broke a 55-55 tie and the hosts held on down the stretch helped head coach Ergin Ataman’s charges open Group D with a win. Efes seemed to have the game in control as it drilled 6 triples as part of a 24-3 second-period charge that resulted in a 15-point lead. Efes was ahead 35-24 at halftime and 49-37 after three periods. But Dusko Vujosevic’s men never quit and newcomer Stephane Lasme led the fight at both ends as Partizan clawed back, tying the game with less than two minutes to go on baskets by Aleksandar Rasic and big Slavko Vranes. However Vujanic’s three gave Efes the lead for good and despite the best efforts of Novica Velickovic, the hosts finished held on to win. Vujanic led Efes with 17 points and 4 assists, Thornton added 10 points and Kaya Peker and Kerem Gonlum netted 9 each for the winners, who travel to Armani Jeans Milano next week. Velickovic paced Partizan’s scoring with 16, Lasme recorded 11 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocked shots and Zarko Rakocevic added 10 for Partizan, which hosts Real Madrid next week.
Efes Pilsen keep Partizan at just 2 points for the first five minutes while scoring by Kaya Peker and Kerem Gonlum gave the hosts an 8-2 lead. Partizan answered with a 0-8 burst in only two minutes capped by a Velickovic layup with three minutes left in the period that gave Partizan its first lead of the game, 8-10. Partizan upset Efes’s balance with strong defense and Rakocevic’s layup made it 11-14 as the Serbian champs held the hosts to just 3 points to score in the final five minutes of the first quarter.
Cedomir Vitkovac opened the second quarter scoring with a triple to give Partizan a 6-point edge, but it would be short-lived. Efes caught fire and buried 6 straight three pointers. Charles Smith opened the aerial barrage from the right side of the arc, then Cenk Akyol, Michalis Kakuouzis, Thornton and Vujanic followed as the lead hit double figures. Partizan found just 3 points on a free throw by Milenko Tepic and a Rakocevic layup as Efes went on a 24-3 surge to extend the Efes lead to 35-20. Partizan woke up in the last two minutes of the half and baskets by Lasme and Velickovic cut the gap to 35-24 at halftime.
Partizan pushed harder than in the first half as the third quarter began. The visitors worked harder in the paint for Lasme and the power forward helped cut into the difference with an offensive rebound and free throw to made it 37-29. Efes stayed strong on defense despite struggling on offence and kept its lead in the 10-point range for most of the third period. A Milosevic triple made it 46-37, but a key Thornton layup and an Akyol free throw ended the third period at 49-37.
Partizan’s improved defensive continued to cause trouble for Efes in the beginning of the last period. A Tepic triple gave the visitors hope. The visitors proceeded to keep Efes scoreless for more than three minutes and a Velickovic layup-plus-free throw reduced the difference to 49-46. Gonlum broke the silence for the home team and Peker denied the Partizan defense with a hook to give Efes some breathing room. But Partizan was digging in to win. A Vitkovac's free throw made it a 2-point game midway through the fourth quarter, however a Vujanic layup over Vranes gave Efes some momentum, That disappeared when Rasic and Vranes both scored to knot the game at 55-55 with less than two minutes to go. A Vujanic three pointer with 89 seconds to play gave Efes a 3-point lead, but Partizan didn't give up the fight. A Velickovic fade-away jumper made it 59-57. Smith scored 2 free throws with 14 seconds left to make it a two-possession lead, 61-57. After a Partizan timeout, Rasic turned the ball over, but Efes did the same with Vujanic. But Partizan only had enough time for Uros Tripkovic's long distance triple at the buzzer, which wasn;t enough to the visitors as Efes celebrated a hard-earned opening night win.
Thursday, October 23, 2008