By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Rokas Jokubaitis led the victors with 16 points including a few tough and clutch baskets down the stretch. Nikola Mirotic followed with 15 points, 13 of those coming in the first half, while Sertac Sanli had another solid game against his former team with 13 points.
The previous duel this season went to Barca after overtime but it was a close affair ending within one possession, with stars Larkin and Mirotic fouling out early in the final period and coach Ergin Ataman leaving the bench as well near the end.
That atmosphere translated to this game as well, and the recurring theme was coach Ataman getting a double technical in quick succession and getting ejected. This time, however, much earlier, just a couple of minutes into the third quarter.
Atman had a fiery exit which perhaps infused some energy into the Efes squad which was taken over by assistant Yakup Sekizkok, as they refused to give up, staying close to Barca that had 51-43 in the third and 67-58 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Turks lurked for their chance and Larkin made it a one-point game with a three-pointer (73-72), but Barca answered with Jokubaitis scoring a tough driving layup and Brandon Davies banking in a triple off a no-look pass by Mirotic.
After a time-out, Efes didn’t convert and Mirotic scored two more for Barca which went up by eight (80-72) and sealed the deal with Jokubaitis adding another crucial two-pointer in the final minute.
“We never lost confidence”
Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius pointed out that, while his team could have played better and closed the game easier, it was an important win as they bounced back from a couple of losses.
“I thought it was an incredible fight. I think it was very good that we were always up a little bit. I think we could have closed it if we were a little bit smarter at both ends of the court. But at the same time, it’s difficult. Efes is such a good team. Their guards are some of the best in Europe and guys are suffering. Like any of the big games: details in the end. One basket went our way so it’s an important win after those two losses. We never lost confidence in ourselves. We know that we are a good team.”
Hero of the game Jokubaitis echoed his coach’s words.
“We needed that win badly. We took the win, everybody is happy. We keep going. Every game in EuroLeague is difficult. We try to fight, we try to win every game. Right now we’re not so good but we got an important win.”