In a direct duel that could lead to the last sure Top 16 berth in Group C, Pau-Orthez stepped up for a huge 83-79 home win against Montepaschi Siena on Wednesday to break their part of a fifth-place tie. Pau improved to 4-8 and is fifth in Group C, waiting to see Ulker's result on Thursday. Meanwhile, Montepaschi dropped to 3-9 and it is in a dangerous position with only two regular season games left. Brooks Sales led the winners with a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds. Artur Drozdov added 15 points, Thierry Rupert 14 and Lonnie Cooper 12. For Siena, Rimantas Kaukenas led the way with 19 points, Roberto Chiacig added 16 - all in the first half . while Justin Hamilton had 11 and Jamel Thomas 10. Pau led almost all the way and had a 70-60 margin with 8 minutes to go. Back-to-back triples by Montepaschi provided some excitement in the final minutes, but Pau held on to register a key win and keep its Top 16 hopes alive.
Cooper and Sales launched Pau off to a 4-0 start but Hamilton silenced the crowd with a monster dunk and the free throw which came with it. Defenses were the key now as no team managed to score a single point for more than 3 minutes until Gadou made it 7-3 from the free throw line. Chiacig battled in the lane to get Montepaschi going while Kaukenas tied the game again, 10-10, with 2 free throws. Chiacig gave Siena its first lead of the game in the following play, as Pau looked for its big men inside, which the guests could only stop through fouls. Montepaschi found the way to score getting near Pau's basket, as Chiacig posted more free throws for 14-17. A last 4-0 burst by the hosts allowed Pau to pull within 18-19 after 10 minutes.
Souarata Cisse and Luigi Datome exchanged triples early in the second quarter and Cooper added a coast-to-coast drive to put Pau back in charge, 25-22. Datome appeared for his second consecutive three but Sales replied in the same way as he banked in a fallaway jumper for a 28-25 Pau edge. Datome took it personal and nailed a new bomb from downtown and he was soon joined by Andrea Pecile to give Siena a 32-36 edge. Drozdov was Pau's more resolutive man as he slammed over the guests' defense, but soon Siena adjusted its defense, which become a big obstacle for Pau. The hosts started to look for long shots and a three-pointer by Thierry Gadou brought Pau within 37-38. Once again Gadou sank a new triple late in this half, but a quick transition allowed Chiacig to dunk it and tie the game, 42-42, at halftime.
Rupert boosted the hosts to a 6-0 start in the second half, but defenses were now stronger on each side. Pau tried a zone defense and it seemed to be successful as Siena's offense was limited to 6 points in 7 minutes. Pau didn't score many points either, but its good defense helped the hosts to keep a small lead with some help from Rupert. Thomas was the most active man in the guests' offense, but so was Rupert for Pau as his eighth point in this period fell in for 57-52. Fred Fauthoux wanted to join Rupert in that category and blasted two straight triples that brough the stands crazy, 60-54. Free throws fell for each side as Rupert and Cooper scored around two tries by Kaukenas to put a 64-56 for Pau after 30 minutes.
Both teams exchanged baskets at full speed early in the fourth quarter, as Siena tried to get back into the game. Drozdov dunked it again to make it a double-digit game, 70-60, after 32 minutes. Cooper slashed like lightning for a bucket, but Hamilton made a free throw and Kaukenas helped with a jumper to make it 72-63. Pau-Orthez started to power the offensive board and Drozdov soon found a second-chance layup for a 78-65 lead with 3:30 to go. Hamilton tried to change things with a three and Vladimer Boisa soon joined him with another one to bring Siena within 81-73 with 90 seconds to go. Sales had a key steal but he missed in Pau's chance to break the game open. Thomas made free throws for 82-75 and 30 seconds remaining, but Montepaschi only found a basket in the hands of Kaukenas for 82-77 and 12 seconds to go. Cooper made a free throw, enough for Pau to escape with a much-needed win.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006