Tau Ceramica won its sixth straight Euroleague game on Wednesday by crushing Asseco Prokom 99-77 at the Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria, Spain. Tau took control early as league-leading scorer Igor Rakocevic had 11 in a 20-2 first-period charge that gave the hosts a 26-7 lead. Prokom never quit and its backcourt got the team back within single digits, but Tau always had an answer and the outcome was never seriously in doubt. Rakocevic was one of three Tau players to score at least 20 in the convincing win. Power forward Mirza Teletovic hit 4 three-pointers en route to a career-high 22 points and Sergi Vidal set a career-best with 20. Rakocevic also scored 20. Will McDonald, starting in place of the injured Tiago Splitter, added 11 in addition to 6 blocks, which were both a personal best and a Tau record. Stanko Barac had 10 rebounds for the winners. Daniel Ewing paced Prokom with 19 points, Ronnie Burrell added 16, David Logan 15 and Pat Burke posted 12 points and 11 rebounds in defeat.
With an unusual starting five due to the absence of Splitter, Tau struggled a bit in early going. Despite of a pair of layups by Rakocevic and Pete Mickeal, the Polish champs looked ready for the challenge thanks to a three-pointer by Logan and a fastbreak dunk by Burrell. But the 6-5 score was nothing but an illusion, as the hosts needed less than a minute to turn the game upside down. Pablo Prigioni started the fire with a three-point bomb, followed by a dunk-plus-foul play by McDonald. Another layup by Rakocevic forced head coach Tomas Pacesas to call timeout after three-and-a-half minutes as the hosts threatened to break the game open early, 14-5. Rakocevic came up big after the break with a three-pointer-plus-foul play, showing Prokom that it would take more than a timeout to change the trend. Tau increased the advantage step by step, even though Prokom tried to slow down the hosts with a soft zone defense when the score reached a 26-9 lead after six minutes. Nothing changed, though, as Tau kept finding open shots and using great accuracy to finish the first quarter with a comfortable edge, 34-15.
Prokom started the second period in a stronger fashion, showing more aggressiveness on defense and taking advantage of Tau’s rotations. The hosts weren’t able to keep the same high level with the second string and that was exploited by Prokom to reduce the difference to 36-24 behind Ewing, Tyrone Brazelton and Burke. Rakocevic returned Tau to form with a three, but the Prokom backcourt took over and Burke and Burrell were pretty active at both ends. The visitors scored easy points by running the court as fast as possible, stunning Tau. Head coach Dusko Ivanovic decide to remove Barac from the rotation and used Mickeal at power forward, but it didn’t improve Tau’s performance much. Ewing made it a 10-point game with one minute left, 47-37, before a couple of free throws by Vidal closed the first half with a 51-39 Tau lead.
The visitors kept rocking after the intermission, with Burke and Burrell scoring inside and Ewing capping a 0-7 run with a three to make it a 5-point game. Tau reacted immediately with another three by Prigioni, but the game wasn’t as easy as it was for the hosts in the first period. Both teams exchanged baskets, as nobody was able to take control of the pace of the game. The hosts fed Vidal and Mickeal for scoring, while Prokom went to Logan outside. The differences remained steady, as the last attempt to pull away made by the hosts was aborted by 5 points in a row by Logan to reach the end of the third period with a 69-58 advantage for Tau.
Vidal boosted the hosts with a three-pointer and a layup right after the break, but he found no help from his teammates to finish off the game. Prokom was able to prevent the hosts from playing their game thanks to Ewing, Logan and Burrell, who kept the Polish champs in the game. But the lack of accurate replacements ended up limiting Pacesas’s team. Once the visitors’ three-pointers started to dry up, Tau found no resistance. And after Burrell hit a three to make it 81-69 midway through the last quarter, nothing worked for Prokom. The hosts increased their defensive activity and secured the boards, outscoring visitors 18-7 in the last five minutes and burying Prokom’s last hopes in the blink of an eye.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009