Efes lives to fight another day, Milano on elimination brink

2023-03-28T21:14:20+00:00 2023-03-28T22:18:58+00:00.

Antonis Stroggylakis

28/Mar/23 21:14

shane larkin anadolu efes olimpia milano

Efes’ stars went to work to help their team stay in the race for the EuroLeague playoffs.

By Eurohoops team/ info@eurohoops.net

In a “do-or-die” battle for both Anadolu Efes and Olimpia Milano in Istanbul, the defending back-to-back EuroLeague champions prevailed 89 – 69 to improve to 15-16 and retain their playoff chances. Milano, on the other hand, fell to 14-17 and is practically out of postseason contention despite some thin mathematical chances.

Shane Larkin led the charge for Efes with 18 points plus five assists. He had 11 of his points in the second period to help the Turkish side get a 47 – 32 advantage at the break, never to look behind. Will Clyburn contributed 16 points plus five steals, delivering a hot start of 11 points (on 3-3 triples) in the first seven minutes to get his team going early.

“We stayed with it in all the game,” Clyburn said. “Played together as a unit. On the offensive and the defensive end. We followed the rules, we were connected and that’s what we need to do defensively until the end of the year.”

Vasilije Micic added 15 points plus six rebounds and Elijah Bryant had 12 plus seven boards for an Efes team that was highly active on both ends from the beginning.

In the last minutes of the second period, Ergin Ataman’s team established a double-digit advantage and comfortably led for the rest of the game.

“A slap on our face”

“It was a slap on our face in the first five minutes,” Milano coach Ettore Messina said. “We showed no fire and competitiveness and that’s the sad part of this night. They overwhelmed us with their talent and aggression.” His team came into this game with seven wins over the last eight EuroLeague games but had its worst performance in months.

Milano stayed close until halfway through the second period but fell apart afterward and trailed even by 23 points, 66 – 43 late in the third quarter. The Red Shoes just managed to cut that deficit to 15, 68 – 53, before Efes made it a 20-point game again.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (19 points, six rebounds) and Johannes Voigtmann (12 points, nine in the first quarter) scored in double figures for Milano.

“We showed character”

For back-to-back EuroLeague champion Shane Larkin, things are simple: “We showed character tonight, came out, fought really hard all 40 minutes, and got a big win here at home in front of our fans. I think we showed our [chemistry] tonight. Five guys in double figures, we really locked in on the defensive end. That team was probably one of the hottest in the EuroLeague, and we held them under 70 points and we scored at a high level. We had our ups and downs this year but we now have to do our jobs, come here, fight, see what we can accomplish. And I think tonight we did that.”

Efes head coach Ergin Ataman who practically said his team was out of the playoffs one week ago, admitted that Efes was better than their showing in recent defeats but there’s a flip side to that: “I don’t know if I must be happy after the basketball we played tonight, or worried. Because we only played with this kind of aggressiveness, we shared the ball, we always found good shot selection and we showed the fight, but only when we are in big trouble for the playoffs”.

And speaking about playoffs, this time Ataman didn’t want to predict anything: “It’s very difficult, this situation, to see the team we are able to be, to play that kind of aggressive basketball, able to share the basketball in that correct way, but only this time. Our playoff situation does not only depend on our victories. Thanks to the supporters who came tonight. It is easy to support when the team plays great, in the four seasons we were making everybody happy, when everyone wanted to come and show up. But it is more important for me to support the team in this kind of situation.”