It was billed a classic, it was played like one and it ended like one, too. James Forrest threw in a 9-meter three-point shot at the buzzer on Wendesday as Olympiakos shocked Efes Pilsen with a 79-80 victory in Istanbul. The unbelievable victory preserved a spot near the top of Group A for Olympiakos, whose record is now 5-3. Efes, with its second straight home loss after an nearly three-year winning streak of 27 games in Istanbul, falls to 4-4. Alphonso Ford led the winners with 18 points, Forrest had 17 and Stephane Risacher 10. For Efes, Mehmet Okur and Kaspars Kambala ruled the inside to the tune of 18 points each. The finish was amazing! Marcus Brown had hit 1 of 2 free throws with 17 seconds remaining to give Efes a 79-77 lead. Milan Tomic, the hero of a similar game in the Greek League on Sunday, had his attempt this time swatted out of bounds, but Olympiakos kept possession. After a tiemout, Forrest took his first chance at glory and missed, but Patrick Femerling kept the rebound alive until it was corralled by Forrest way outside the three-point arc. He threw it in the air again, and the rest is history.
Olympiakos started the game very fast and took the lead immediately. Ford, the hero of the first match in Athens, had 13 points in the first 10 minutes, including 3 three-pointers, to give the visitors an eight-point lead, 14-22, at quarter's end. Ford single handedly outscored Efes, who struggled with only 4 points in the openeing 4 minutes and generally had trouble putting the ball in the hoop. Kaspars Kambala tried to keep his team standing, however, with 6 of its 12 points.
Efes started the second quarter by substituting Saulius Stombergas with Arda Vekiloglu. They got what they are searching for. In a span of three minutes, The young Turkish forward hit consecutive three-pointers to led his team to a 22-22 tie. Three minutes after that, Efes would proceed to take a lead for the first time at 29-28 on an inside basket by Kambala. Control, it was already clear, would be a relative concept in this game, but Efes was able to hang on and lead at the half 40 -39.
Olympiakos started the third period with another three-pointer by Ford, which sparked the visitors to retake the lead and push it to 6 points, at 44-50, on a basket by James Forrest in the 25th minute. Mehmet Okur and Kerem Tunceri kept Efes online until an Alper Yilmaz three-pointer again gave Efes the lead at 55-54). But the three-pointer constest between the two teams was far from over. Stephane Risacher answered for Olympiakos to make it 55-57 and Sevrasenko added the last word of the third period wfor a 57-60 lead by the visitors. That led to the incredible fourth period, a classic puncher's duel between two proud sides. Despite the great effort of Marcus Brown and Okur in this period for Efes, it would be the "other" American of Olympiakos, Forrest, who decide this most important outcome in favor of the visitors.
Wednesday, December 12, 2001