Efes Pilsen edged Partizan mt:s 76-79
Withstanding the pressure of almost 18,000 fans in its face, Efes Pilsen held on for dear life to a 76-79 road win over Partizan mt:s Belgrade on Wednesday to stay undefeated in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16. Efes improved to 2-0 in Group G, worth a first-place tie with Real Madrid, the team it now faces in a home-and-away matchups in the next two games. Winning amid the incredible noise at Belgrade Arena will no doubt strengthen Efes for the challenges to come. The visitors led at the end of a first half with 6 ties and 9 lead changes, then protected the advantage as Partizan rallied to within a single point several times in the closing minutes. Kerem Tunceri made 6 of 6 free throws and Bootsy Thornton 2 of 2 in the final minute to preserve the Efes victory. Igor Rakocevic led the winners with 23 points, 14 in the first quarter. Kerem Gonlum followed him with 14 points and Tunceri with 13, while former Partizan player Lawrence Roberts chipped in 9. Partizan cut an 11-point deficit with 8 minutes left to 69-70 with a minute one on a triple by James Gist, and again to 74-75 on another by Dusan Kecman, but couldn't make Tunceri miss free throws. The hosts got 19 points from Gist, 15 from Curtis Jerrells and 10 from Nathan Jawai, but fell to 0-2 and must-win territory going forward.
Rakocevic hit a back-door layup to open the scoring, Gist matched for Partizan with a lefty jump-hook, and the same trade-off followed between Nikola Vujcic's jumper for Efes and Rako Katic's flip-in at 4-4. Rakocevic's rattled-in triple and back-door layup were answered by Dragan Milosavljevic driving and Gist putting back his own miss as Efes led 8-9. Kecman found Gist in the corner for a triple and Partizan's first lead, 12-10. Rakocevic tried to silence the crowd with his own corner triple, but a Gist-to-Jan Vesely alley-oop dunk raised the noise to new levels of deafening. Efes didn't lose concentration, though. Roberts stuck a turnaround jumper against his former team, and Rakocevic made a put-back and free throws at 14-19. Rakocevic already had 14 of the Efes points. Nonetheless, a triple by Milosavljevic and then 3 points the hard way by Jawai turned the scoreboard in Partizan's favor, 21-19, after 10 minutes.
Roberts punished his old team again with a go-ahead triple to start the second quarter. When Tunceri hit a reverse layup, all alone, Efes was up 21-24, but Jerrells then tied it again with 3 points by himself for Partizan. Flip Murray and Katic traded free throws before Gist made a huge block and assisted Vesely on a go-head dunk at 28-26. Roberts answered with a power drive good for a three-point play and a new Efes lead, after which Gonlum hit back-to-back baskets to make it 28-33 and force a Partizan timeout. Kecman put back an offensive rebound to steady the hosts, while Murray made 2 of 2 free throws in response. Milosavljevic found Jawai for monster slam, but this time Thornton and Andrew Wisniewski made free throws to keep Efes up 32-39. Gist got 2 points back at the line, but Rakocevic returned to scoring with a free throw of his own as the visitors stayed ahead 34-40 at the half.
Great ball movement for a Gist three-pointer to open the third quarter got the crowd right back on its feet. Rakocevic responded for Efes, first with a triple, and then, despite a huge block on him by Gist, with a baseline jumper to make it 37-45 as his personal point total reached 20. Jerrells hit 2 free throws to Thornton's 1 before Rakocevic found Gonlum for a flying slam that finally did generate some silence - and a Partizan timeout - at 39-48, the game's biggest lead so far. Next, Jerrells fed Vesely for an alley-oop slam and hit his own free throws at 43-48. A back-door layup by Tunceri was bested by Milosavljevic from downtown, cutting the difference to 46-50, and raising the crowd to its feet. But Rakocevic kept pumping free throws, while Gonlum cut for another layup and Sinan Guler saved a miss to keep Efes 48-56. Kecman answered with free throws and Jawai a hook for Partizan, but Tunceri made 3 of 4 free throws to keep Efes safe at 52-59 after 30 minutes.
Murray boosted the Efes lead with a driving lefty layup to open the final quarter. After free throws fell by Jawai and Gonlum, Guler came out of nowhere to steal a loose ball and detonate a two-handed slam good for the game's first double-digit lead, 54-65. With 8 minute left, Partizan got a triple from Jerrells to beat the shot clock and get the crowd back into it. A Gist free throw followed by a slam from Vesely suddenly made it 60-65 with 6 minutes still left. Gonlum's reverse layup calmed Efes, but Jerrells answered with a three-pointer at 63-67. Gist followed a free throw by Roberts with a triple of his own, at 66-68, and when Tunceri fed Gonlum for a layup, Gist did it again, firing from downtown to make it 69-70 going into the final minute. With 48 seconds left, Rakocevic missed the second of a pair of free throws, but Thornton got the rebound and made both of his shots at the foul line to make it a two-possession game, 69-73. Kecman got to the line immediately, making both, and when Tunceri missed a triple, Roberts ripped the sixth offensive rebound of the fourth quarter for Efes. At the foul line with 17 seconds left, Tunceri was perfect, but Partizan wasted all of 3 seconds as Milosavljevic made an incredible assist to Kecman for a triple at 74-75. Tunceri went back to the foul line, perfect again, with 11.6 seconds left, and fouled Jerrells before Partizan could try to tie with a three-pointer. Jerrells and Tunceri each went 2 for 2, leaving a 76-79 score with 8.9 seconds still left. This time, Jerrells got off his three-point attempts, then Kecman rebounded and tried his own, but neither was close, so Efes held onto a good-as-gold road win in Belgrade!
Wednesday, January 26, 2011