Tau Ceramica survived a tough battle to retain a share of first place in Group A when it pulled past Prokom Trefl 70-75 in Sopot, Poland on Thursday. Tau improved to 5-1 in the Group A standings, tied with Olympiacos at the top, while Prokom dropped to 2-4, alongside RheinEnergie in sixth place. Serkan Erdogan led the winners with 17 points, while a pair of Tau's big men posted double-doubles. Luis Scola had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Tiago Splitter 14 and 12, respectively. Zoran Planinic added 11 points and Igor Rakocevic 10 for Tau. Donatas Slanina had 17 points for Prokom, Christian Dalmau added 13 and Huseyin Besok 11. It was a balanced game in the opening half, as a layup by Planinic gave Tau a 35-36 edge at the break. Erdogan and Splitter allowed Tau to get a 52-62 lead after 30 minutes, but Prokom rallied and Slanina tied it at 65-65 with 3 minutes to go. Splitter, Erdogan and Scola shined in crunch time, while free throws by Erdogan and Rakocevic sealed the outcome in the final seconds.
Masiulis opened the scoring with a jumper off the glass, but on the other side couldn't stop Scola, who made a layup. Prokom forced the game inside early as Masiulis and Besok combined for their team's 10 points. Meanwhile, Tau counted more on its outside players. Planinic scored on drives, while Rakocevic landed consecutive triples. Following the second of them, Tau led 9-12 and took control from there. Scola made 2 layups in a row before Slanina finally responed with a jumper. But just few seconds later Rakocevic drilled his third bomb from downtown for Tau's biggest lead yet, 14-22. Tau's full-court defense forced Prokom into may mistakes, but finally the hosts were able to cut the gap on Michael Andersen's layup to 18-23 after one quarter.
Tau opened the second quarter with Erdogan burying a triple to extend the lead to 18-27. When it was 21-29, Prokom needed a timeout, from which it came out playing much faster. Dalmau scored 5 consecutive points and forced Tau to take timeout now. The teams played basket for basket aftter that, with Prokom using rebounds to cut the gap until Filip Dylewicz made a three-point play to even the score at 33-33. Missed free throws, a pair each by Dalmau and Jasmin Hukic, cost Prokom a chance to take the lead, so Erdogan and Planinic helped Tau escape to a 35-39 lead at the half.
Fred House hit a bomb from a downtown for Tau to open the third quarter, but then Prokom took control. The hosts used a 7-0 blast to equal the score again, 42-42, following a three-point play, this time from Slanina. Again, however, Prokom lost a chance to go ahead again, as Tau instead responded with a 0-6 run. Erdogan kept things going for the guests, scoring 5 consecutive points to open a 47-55 advantage. Meanwhile, Tau's defense limited Prokom inside while the hosts struggled to his outside shots. When Mirsa Teletovic hopped off the visitors' bench to hit a triple, Tau had its first double-digit advantage, 48-58. Both teams traded basket before the period finished with scoreboard showing 52-62.
While Tau seemed to have the game under control, Prokom came out for the fourth quarter with comeback fever. With strengthened defense that forced Tau into turnovers, Prokom held the visitors scoreless for almost 5 minutes while using triples by Slanina and Rashid Atkins to forget a 9-0 run that cut the difference to a single point, 61-62. Finally, Scola scored from the line and from inside for Tau, but Prokom stayed just a step behind. Nervousness took over as both teams made mistakes on fastbreaks. Slanina equalled the score again 65-65 by making both his attempts from the line, but the next few minutes belonged to Tau. The guests used a 1-7 run to take final control. Scola was on target again, but Erdogan's triple appeared to be the most important basket of the game. Prokom was unable to execute and scored only on free throws. Slanina finally made a jumper and gave the home fans some hope at 68-72 with possession following a Tau turnover. Both teams were sent to the foul line, but Tau kept a safe advantage by shooting better free throws down the stretch until Rakocevic sealed a 70-75 victory.
Thursday, November 30, 2006