Partizan took a major step to reach the Top 16 in Group D by downing Efes Pilsen 83-77 in front of a sellout crowd at Pionir Arena in Belgrade, Serbia on Wednesday night. Partizan joins a three-way tie with Real Madrid and Panionios On Telecoms for the second place in Group D, all with a 3-3 record. Efes is fifth, right behind at 2-4. Aleksandar Rasic paced the winners with 18 points. Stephane Lasme and Milenko Tepic each added 11 while Novica Velikovic had 10 for Partizan. Kerem Gonlum led Efes with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Preston Shumpert added 13 points while Charles Smith had 12 for the guests. Uros Tripkovic shined late in the first quarter to give Partizan a 21-14 edge after 10 minutes. Shumpert tried to change things for Efes but Slavko Vranes and Lasme kept the hosts ahead, 40-36, at halftime. An 11-0 run that Tepic capped with a layup broke the game open, 51-38, as Partizan managed to keep a safe lead all the way until the final buzzer. Efes, however, managed to get within 79-75 with 14 seconds to go but it was too little, too late for the guests.
Smith got Efes going with a layup off a steal but Tepic sank a triple for a 3-2 Partizan edge. Jan Vesely, in his second-ever Euroleague start, took over with a fast break dunk that Zarko Rakocevic followed with a power layup to keep the hosts ahead, 7-3. Efes tried to get Kaya Peker involved without much success. Partizan dominating the offensive board, as Petar Bozic finished a three-chance offense with a corner triple. Smith immediately answered from downtown to keep Efes within 10-6. Lasme took over with a reverse layup but a corner three-pointer by Thornton got Efes even closer, 12-9. Tepic had a huge block on Milos Vujanic, as the game turned into a physical battle. Rasic and Peker traded free throws while a floating layup by Vujanic made it a two-point game, 14-12. Velickovic buried a six-meter jumper that Vujanic erased with foul shots. Uros Tripkovic followed a big triple with a backdoor layup for a 21-14 Partizan margin after 10 minutes.
Shumpert came off the bench and scored in the low post right at the start of the second quarter, as Efes tried more versatility with him and Michalis Kakiouzis together on court. Tripkovic shined with a driving layup while Partizan had improved its man-to-man defense, not allowing any open shots. Efes went scoreless for 3 minutes until Kerem Gonlum stepped up with a power basket. Vranes took over with a basket-plus-foul off an Efes timeout but a jump hook by Gonlum kept the guests within 26-20. Vranes scored again but free throws by Shumpert and a layup by Kakiouzis kept Efes as close as 28-24. Velickovic provided a highlight with an off-balance three-point play but Vujanic struck from downtown. Rasic scored in penetration but Kakiouzis bettered that with a triple, good for a 33-30 Efes deficit. Rasic answered with a seven-meter bomb while Vranes dunked it to keep Partizan ahead, 38-32. A corner jumper by Lasme and a buzzer-beating triple by Smith fixed the halftime score at 40-36.
Peker scored down low after the break but Vesely took over with an alleyoop layup - and the free throw that came with it. Lasme followed a power layup witha mid-range jumper to make it a nine-point game, 47-38. Efes kept missing shots now while Tepic capped a 11-0 Partizan run with a second-chance layup, good for a 51-38 lead. Shumpert buried a shot and soon added a layup to give Efes some hope, 52-42. A red hot Shumpert nailed a big three-pointer to make Efes call timeout at 52-45. Efes was a different team now in defense, dominating the boards. Gonlum shined with a tip-in but Velickovic answered from downtown to give Efes some fresh air at 56-47. Shumpert sank a huge turnaround jumper but a big basket by Tripkovic and a free throw by Tepic restored a double-digit Partizan margin, 59-49. Cedomir Vitkovac and Gonlum traded tip-ins for a 61-51 score at the end of the third quarter.
Vitkovac kept pacing Partizan with a jumper early in the fourth period. Efes needed a rally right away and Predrag Drobnjak stepped on court to score against Lasme. Efes kept missing outside shots, however, as Partizan did not allow any open looks. Meanwhile, Rasic struck from downtown for a 66-53 margin with under 8 minutes remaining. Tepic sank a three-pointer, making Efes call timeout at 69-55. Gonlum and Smith combined for 4 quick points but Rasic scored in penetration to keep the hosts way ahead, 71-59. Thornton made free throws and Cliff Hammonds added a fast break layup to make Partizan call timeout at 74-63. The hosts started to use long possessions while a three-pointer by Hammonds, free throws by Gonlum and a put-back layup by Kakiouzis gave Efes some hope, 75-70, with 1:30 to go. Lasme and Velikovic made free throws to seal the outcome, 79-70. Partizan, backed by an outstanding crowd, managed to break its two-game losing streak and get closer to return to the Top 16.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008