Tau Ceramica escaped from Athens with an 83-85 victory against Olympiacos on Wednesday to retain part of a first-place tie in Group D. Tau is now 2-0, having won twice on the road, and is tied with CKSA Moscow, the opponent in its first home game next week, for first place. The Reds fell to 0-2, with losses against the co-leaders, so will have to hope for some big wins and lots of help to climb back into the Final Four race. Olympiacos had a chance to tie at the end, but could not conver, giving Tau the victory. Arvydas Macijauskas led the winners with 22 points, including 3 of 3 three-pointers and 5 of 5 free throws. Luis Scola came next with a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Kornel David put up 17 points and Tiago Splitter 11 in 12 minutes. Olympiacos got 24 points from Boris Gorenc, 22 from Panagiotis Liadelis, 11 and 9 rebounds from Goran Jurak and 8 plus 13 rebounds from Dalibor Bagaric.
Despite the defensive spirit shown by Liadelis, Macijauskas started the game at full speed and energy, nailing 6 fast points and assisting Scola on a basket. At the same time, however, Macijauskas committed 2 personal fouls. Olympiacos didn't make good offensive decisions and its adjustment time was long enough for Tau to jump ahead 4-10. The Reds then improved their defense, found the path to the basket and, thanks to consecutive three-pointers by Harissis and Liadelis, turned an 8-0 run into a 12-10 lead. When Macijauskas was called to the bench, Tau missed its main weapon, while Olympiacos turned from individual defense to zone and tried to create fastbreak opportunities. Gorenc bagged 8 points himself and Liadelis used one of his typical drives to open the margin to 26-20. Sergi Vidal sank a three-pointer for Tau to set the scoreboard at 26-23 after one quarter.
David gave Tau 4 fast points and a new lead, 26-27, to start the second quarter, but the Reds again imposed their rhythm and responded with a 7-0 run to a 33-27 advantage after 14 minutes. Macijauskas returned to the court, while Liadelis was called to the bench for a breather. Now the visitors took the momentum with a 0-10 run sealed by an open three-pointer from Pablo Prigioni. Tau soared ahead 33-37 and then Splitter gave them a six-points gap, 34-40. Prigioni bagged another big three from the corner for 38-43 and, thanks to scoring balance between the front and backcourt, Tau closed the first half with a comfortable 38-45 advantage.
Too proud to die, the Reds came back with more energy after halftime. Harissis stole twice and Gorenc finished the fastbreaks to bring Olympiacos to withing 44-45. Gorenc and Liadelis had combined for 28 of their team's 44 points until then, but now it was Harissis who scored for a 48-47 Reds lead. The visitors didn't panic, however, as Macijauskas stole and detonated a spectacular dunk for a 48-51 scoreboard after 25 minutes. The visitors found their concentration, the defensive inspiration and the offensive alternatives they needed for another 0-9 run and an eight-point margin, 48-56. Both Splitter and Scola played strong low-post games, while Bagaric scored his very first points after 28 minutes. At the end of the third period, Tau found itself 3 points ahead, 59-62.
Early in the fourth quarter, Macijauskas hit a big three and Tau raced ahead 59-67. But Gorenc was on fire and soon sank his own triple to cut the margin to 64-67. Now, the outcome seemed open for both teams. Despite the absence of center Andrew Betts, Tau's big men dominated, especially from Scola, who seemed unstoppable. Under the circumstances, Tau pushed ahead by 9 points, 66-75, and seemed to be in more control than ever. But Olympiacos came up big to reel off a 9-2 run and pull witin 75-77 with 2 minutes to go. Liadelis scored for 75-77 and then it was the turn of Macijauskas again. The scoring master from Lithuania dropped a big three-pointer down the stretch for 75-80. Then Macijauskas traveled to the foul line for 2 good free throws to make it 75-82. The hosts didn't give up and the game came to a thrilling end at the free throw line. Prigioni missed a pair for Tau, after which Gorenc dunk for 82-84, Jose Manuel Calderon scored 1 of 2 for 82-85 and then Harissis was fouled. With 2 seconds on the clock, Harissis scored the first free throw, 83-85, and missed intentionally the second. He grabbed his own rebound, but could not score with it to tie the game and to force the overtime.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004