Efes puts its foot on the gas to defeat Zalgiris, 80-70
Anadolu Efes Istanbul brought an end to its two-game losing streak on Wednesday evening by beating Zalgiris Kaunas 80-70 at Sinan Erdem Sports Hall. With this win, Efes improved to 11-11 and rose to ninth in the standings, just outside of the playoff places, while Zalgiris in seventh dropped to 12-10.
Will Clyburn was the star performer for Efes, finishing with 19 points and 7 rebounds. Bryant Dunston had 12 points, Vasilije Micic chipped in with 11, and Shane Larkin added 10. Zalgiris guard Ignas Brazdeikis scored a career-high 25 points in the losing effort. Edgaras Ulanovas contributed 15 for Zalgiris, too.
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Perhaps taking advantage of Efes's disappointing results in recent weeks, Zalgiris got off to a hot start, opening a 0-4 lead. Kevarrius Hayes's fingerprints were all over the first four minutes, as he scored 4 points, had 1 big block on Amath M'Baye and then recorded a steal, with Zalgiris ahead 8-12. Next, it was the turn of Brazdeikis to come to the fore, as he took his tally to 8 points with 2:49 remaining after scoring a tough step-back two-pointer of Micic, 12-16. Efes scored 4 straight points to close the quarter, 16-16, but Zalgiris never trailed inside the opening 10 minutes.
However, the first points of the second quarter came from Clyburn, as Efes took its first lead of the game, 18-16. In particular, Larkin and Clyburn began to torment Zalgiris, as the hosts swelled its lead to 33-23 with 2:37 to go before halftime. Micic made it a 13-point game after hitting a three-pointer, 36-23, with just under 90 seconds left on the clock, before the teams went into the break with 10 points separating them, 38-28.
Efes got off to the perfect start after halftime, with Clyburn draining a triple to move to 14 points in the game, 41-28. Shortly after, Brazdeikis picked up where he left off in the first quarter, seeing back-to-back three-pointers fall to keep Zalgiris alive, 41-34. When Brazdeikis made it 41-36 with 7:21 remaining thanks to a step-back mid-range jumper over Larkin, he had tied his career high for points with 21. As the quarter progressed, Zalgiris trimmed the gap down to 3 points, 46-43, but a couple of free throws by Larkin and 5 straight points by Micic calmed things down from an Efes perspective, 53-43. Heading into the fourth, it was 55-49 thanks to Tomas Dimsa's made triple.
Rodrigue Beaubois helped Efes reestablish its 9-point advantage, 60-51, by scoring 5 straight points of his own in the early going. By the midway point in the fourth quarter, Brazdeikis moved up to 25 points after draining his fourth triple of the game, but Zalgiris found itself down by 11, 67-56. Efes looked in control entering the game's final minutes, with the hosts up 72-61 with 3:10 to go after Micic saw another three-pointer fall. But, Lukas Lekavicius scored 5 points in a row to cut the deficit to 6, 72-66. It reduced to 4, 72-68, as Dimsa scored a layup off an Ulanovas steal, and then 2, 72-70, after Arnas Butkevicius went 2-for-2 from the line, with 1:24 remaining. Just when Zalgiris thought its comeback was on the verge of being complete, Larkin scored a two-pointer to make it a 4-point game and then Clyburn stole the ball before taking it up the floor and dunking on Hayes, 76-70. On Zalgiris's following possession, Clyburn came up clutch once again, grabbing a crucial defensive rebound before carrying the ball up court and finding the open Beaubois, who scored a layup, 78-70. Beaubois added another layup in the final seconds to make sure of the result, 80-70, as Efes won for the first time since Round 19 and condemned Zalgiris to its second straight defeat.