Real Madrid topped Efes Pilsen 89-86 after overtime
Real Madrid defeated Efes Pilsen 89-86 on Thursday night at the Caja Magica in the Spanish capital in a thrilling game that needed an overtime period to determine the winner. With the victory, Real Madrid improved to 3-0 and remained undefeated in the Top 16, and at home in the Euroleague, and takes sole possession of first place in Group G. Efes Pilsen lost for the first time at this stage of the season, but wil have a chance to climb back to first place when it hosts Madrid in Istanbul in two weeks. Clay Tucker paced the winners with 19 points, while Pablo Prigioni added 17 and was key down the stretch with his defense and clutch shooting. D’Or Fischer tallied 15 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks. Sergio Rodriguez also hit some big-time free-throws to force the extra period and Nikola Mirotic added 12 points for Madrid, who overcame a bad shooting night with a good defensive effort late in the game. Efes was unable to hold a 6-point lead with under four minutes to go in the fourth quarter despite 18 points by Bootsy Thornton and 16 by Igor Rakocevic. Kerem Gonlum also added 13 and 9 rebounds in defeat, while Flip Murray and Lawrence Roberts scored 10 apiece.
Rakocevic showed he meant business early by swishing a three after Ante Tomic opened thing up with a two-pointer, as Madrid tried to establish a post-presence by setting up its big man in back-to-the-basket isolations and a pick-and-roll game with Sergio Llull and Felipe Reyes. But a Thornton triple and layup completed a 2-10 start for Efes and prompted a quick timeout by Madrid head coach Ettore Messina. The hosts still were unable to get going offensively, missing 6 of their first 7 field goals until Prigioni finally swished a triple at the five-minute mark. The newfound shooting touch sparked Madrid, specifically Tucker, who added another bomb, and soon the lead was cut to 13-16 after a Fischer alley-oop slam off a Rodriguez feed and another Tucker triple. Efes boss Velimir Perasovic called timeout to settle his team down some and former Madrid standout Kerem Tunceri hit a three-pointer right off the bat. Still, the hosts had found renewed confidence and a whole other energy level after their previous 11-3 run, and Mirotic finished the quarter strong for Messina’s squad, netting 5 straight points to make it 18-19.
Rodriguez again found Fischer for a dunk and Mirotic made his presence felt also on the defensive end with a nice block of a Rakocevic shot attempt, as Madrid finally shut him down and regained the lead at 22-21 with a pair of free throws by Rodriguez. It was their first advantage since scoring the game’s first basket. But Efes struck back with Roberts, Murray and Bostjan Nachbar buckets and kept the game tight despite consecutive triples by Rodriguez and Carlos Suarez, as the hosts kept improving their perimeter touch. Flexing their inside muscle at both ends though, Perasovic’s crew continued to dictate the tempo and get plenty of offensive mismatches, and Nikola Vujcic scored on a hook shot down the lane to keep Efes on top, 34-38. With the rebounding battle edging towards the visitors, Madrid was unable to find quality mid-to-close-range shots. Outscored 10-30 in the paint, Messina’s crew had a clear area of improvement to address at halftime, which they went into down 40-46 after Murray dropped a buzzer-beating layup.
The big guns came out early after the break, as Tucker and Prigioni got Madrid to a one-possession game again with a jumper and three-pointer, respectively, and Rakocevic and Thornton answered for the visitors before Tucker swished a gorgeous drop-back jumpshot. The swingman then hit two more field-goals to net 8 straight points and even out the game at 54-54. With Rakocevic taking a seat for Efes and the visiting defense focusing on the high-scoring Tucker, Madrid attacked the boards and was able to get the lead again, courtesy of some nice rebounding hustle and powerful finish by Fischer. Gonlum answered at the other end with a put-back bucket and the offensive showdown turned a more defensive-minded battle of attrition, where Efes showed off its competitive flair, keeping it 62-62 after a corner jumpshot by Gonlum. The hosts’ defense was much-improved, however, and both teams reached the final quarter at a 65-65 standstill.
Efes slowed the tempo down in the fourth, patiently working half-court sets and pulling ahead 64-69 on a Nachbar left-handed layup. With the lane clogged and the glass sealed, Madrid had trouble finding good looks and establishing a transition game that opened thing up offensively. It was an unsportsmanlike foul on Nachbar that allowed Messina’s team to cling to a 70-71 deficit after Rodriguez scored on a drive down the lane. But the hosts just could not keep Efes out of the paint, off the glass or scoreless, plain and simple. As the defense collapsed on the visiting big men, Murray found Roberts wide open on the perimeter for a triple that scored it 70-76 with. 3:30 to go. With their first home defeat looming and time winding down, the hosts looked to their money-man in Tucker, but it was Prigioni who hit from beyond the arc to get his team to within 75-76, with 1.50 left on the clock. Perasovic’s men stalled and Prigioni again came through with a steal to split a pair of free throws and tie it at 76-76. Madrid had found its defensive tone when it needed it most, as Fischer emphatically blocked a Rakocevic shot on the next possession, but that did not keep Gonlum from nailing a big-time triple with 19.9 seconds left. Down 76-79, Mirotic missed a wide-open shot from the corner and then Tucker was equally erratic on is long-range bomb. But Mirotic corralled a key rebound and Rodriguez was fouled on his desperate triple attempt by Thornton. After the guard calmly converted all 3 of his free throws and tied it at 79-79 with 2.9 on the clock, Murray stumbled and was unable to get a shot off against Tucker’s defense on the other end. Overtime.
Rodriguez stayed red-hot in the extra period and quickly gave Madrid the lead and another confidence boost by nailing a triple. As his team emphasized aggressiveness on the offensive glass, Fischer came down with a miss and dunked one home before Mirotic drove to give Madrid its biggest lead of the game when it mattered most: 86-81. Suddenly on its heels, Efes turned to Tunceri and the veteran responded by dropping a tough jumper with 1:21 to go. Mirotic then split a pair of free throws and Thornton swished a wide-open tripe to score it 87-86 with just under a minute to go. Madrid was not able to score on its next possession, opening the door for some late-game heroics for the visiting side, but Tunceri’s driving attempt was stuffed by Fischer and Prigioni sealed the deal from the line.
Thursday, February 3, 2011