Pamesa jumped back into the Group G race for the Final Four race by beating previously undefeated Zalgiris Kaunas 85-76 in Valencia, Spain on Thursday. Both teams now have 2-1 records and join a three-way tie for the top spot in Group G along with Maccabi, a winner over Ulker in Tel Aviv. Zalgiris lost its first Top 16 game as Dejan Tomasevic managed to slow Arvydas Sabonis while Antoine Rigaudeau shined in the offensive end. Rigaudeau led the winners with 21 points, including 3 three-pointers. Alejandro Montecchia added 14 points and 4 triples, Dimos Dikoudis 13 points, while Tomasevic posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds for Pamesa before a sellout home crowd. Tanoka Beard led Zalgiris with 20 points, while Sabonis added 13 points and 13 rebounds, Andrius Bagatskis 12 points and Arturas Javtokas 11.
Even without Sabonis in the starting lineup, Zalgiris joined the battle early as Ed Cota drive for one basket and fed Javtokas for a quick 2-4 lead. Fabricio Oberto responded with 3 low-post baskets for Pamesa, and then a jumper by Rigaudeau put the hosts up 10-8. Beard posted a three-point play to retake a 10-11 edge for Zalgiris, but Pamesa fired back with an 8-2 run in which Montecchia drilled a triple and Dikoudis made a layup. Once Sabonis stepped on court, however, things started to change for the guests, as a three by Bagatskis sparked a 0-7 run that broughout Zalgiris within 22-20. Robert Pack was instant offense off the bench for Pamesa, and then a layup by Dikoudis gave the home team a 29-24 lead after 10 minutes of pure offensive basketball.
Pamesa used twin point guards, Montecchia and Pack, to begin the second quarter, and Tomasevic did a fine defensive job on Sabonis. Pack drilled consecutive mid-range jumpers to keep Pamesa's lead at 33-28, but soon Sabonis started to dominate the boards, and his second basket made it a three-point game at 33-30. Pamesa faced trouble as Oberto picked up his third foul midway through the quarter. Montecchia stepped up with a big triple from the right wing, but Javtokas added 7 points in this quarter to keep Zalgiris close at 39-37. The guests even tied 40-40 on a three-pointer by Bagatskis, but Montecchia answered from downtown and Pamesa raced ahead 47-42 before Beard, with an alleyoop layup, brought Zalgiris within 47-44 at halftime.
Montecchia opened the second half with his fourth three-pointer for a safe 50-44 Pamesa margin. Zalgiris went scoreless for 3 minutes until Beard scored near the basket, but the hosts extended their lead to 54-46 on baskets by Rigaudeau and Dikoudis. Sabonis stepped up for the guests with 2 quick baskets, but Rigaudeau went on fire, drilling a fallaway jumper and a three-pointer to extend Pamesa's lead to 61-50. Beard kept finding points near the basket as the main weapon for Zalgiris, but it was not enough. Pamesa held Zalgiris to just 10 points in the quarter and entered the last one leading 66-54.
Zalgiris needed a quick comeback and got some hope as Pamesa entered the foul bonus really early, while Sabonis scored a five-meter jumper and a three-pointer to help cut the deficit to 66-61. Pamesa called timeout to avoid further trouble, but the hosts could not find the way to the basket, and a put-back by Bagatskis made it a three-point game at 66-63. Pamesa had been scoreless for 3 minutes until Jose Antonio Paraiso drilled a three-pointer, his first points of the game, and was followed from downtown by Rigaudeau, who returned the lead to double-digits at 73-63 with 5 minutes to go. It was Rigaudeau's night, and he made yet another three, which Tomasevic followed with an easy basket for an 80-69 scoreboard from which Zalgiris could not come back, having to settle instead for part of a three-way tie in first place.
Thursday, March 18, 2004