Tau Ceramica made sure of a crucial home game and was able to move up a place in the Group C standings when it turned back visiting Alba Berlin 94-81 at home in Vitoria, Spain on Thursday. The victory lifted Tau to 6-5, allowing it to leave a fifth-place tie and join one in fourth-place, with Idea Slask, who simultaneously lost elsewhere in Spain, against Pamesa. A pair of stalwarts throughout the season, shooter Arvydas Macijauskas and big man Kornel David, gave Tau early leads that it protected with jealousy the rest of the game. Macijuaskas led the winners with 28 points, while David put up 23 and 8 rebounds. Luis Scola added 10 points for Tau, while Pablo Prigioni dished 9 assists. Alba, whose record fell to 2-9, hung tough through 25 minutes thanks to 23 points from DeJuan Collins, 14 from Jovo Stanojevic and 10 from Simon Szewczyk.
Tau waited almost 2 minutes to score its first basket, but when Sergi Vidal opened fire with a three-pointer, the hosts went on a 7-0 run that put Alba in trouble midway through the first period. Collins took over and nailed a couple of baskets to give a little breath to his team, but Tau woke up thanks to David and forced the first time out by Alba at 18-8 after 8 minutes. Just after that, Marko Pesic finished a basket-plus-foul fastbreak that put Alba into the battle again, but David hit a buzzer-beater that put a comfortable 20-11 score on board after 10 minutes for the hosts.
Macijauskas revved up his shooting skills early in the second quarter, collecting 7 points in a row. It was enough for Tau to keep a solid margin in those moments, when Alba finally improved its poor shooting. Big man Tiago Splitter made his debut as a Spaniard for Tau, just hours after being nationalized, but the cheering from Tau's fans was suddenly stopped by a three-pointer from Szewczyk, who reduced the gap to only 6 points at 27-21. Tau called a timeout, and the talk was useful for the hosts. Another jumper by Macijauskas was followed by an alley-oop basket from Splitter to restore Tau's lead at 11 points. Alba's only answer was Collins, who ended the first half with 15 points, but that was not enough to threaten the home team's leadership seriously. Scola closed the period with a buzzer-beating dunk that made the score 46-37 at intermission.
A quick 5 points in a row by Stanojevic eclipsed the return of Andres Nocioni to Tau's lineup to start the third quarter. The Argentinean forward scored his first basket after 5 weeks sidelined, but Tau was struggling against the improved Alba defense. In addition, Tau center Andrew Betts had to sit due to his fourth foul in minute 24, forcing David, already with three himself, back on court. Stanojevic kept getting points as Alba managed to reduce the gap to just 4, at 50-46, the smallest difference since the first minute of the game. Now, however, a couple of blocked shots by Nocioni and the quickness of Macijauskas ignited a 11-2 run for the hosts that put the score at 61-48 after 27 minutes. Both teams exchanged baskets from that point, so the difference didn't change significantly as the third quarter 66-57.
There was nothing important to tell in the beginning of the last quarter, except a couple of flagrant fouls, one for each team. Tau was comfortably waiting for the end of the game, watching how the guests were unable to pick up the rhythm. The clock ran out of minutes as Tau increased the margin step by step. A lucky three-point play by David gave Tau a game-high 18-point lead at 89-71, as the crowd warmly thanked Nocioni's effort when he headed the bench. The game ended with a 94-81 score after a shy reaction by the visitors.
Thursday, January 29, 2004
Natxo Mendaza, Vitoria