Pau-Orthez has clinched sixth place in Group A and with it the outside chance at reaching the Top 16 after walloping direct rival Alba Berlin 97-82 at home on Wednesday. Pau, who led by as many as 25 points, is now 5-8 and by virtue of this winning margin would win any tie with Alba, which fell to 4-9. Pau must wait for results in other groups, however, to see if it has a shot at the best sixth-place record and the Top 16 berth that goes with it. The strength of Rod Sellers and Cyril Julian in the paint, and the togetherness of the Pietrus brothers, Mickael and Florent, on the perimeter, never allowed Alba to be a real threat. The winners were led by Sellers with 17 points, but 4 other Pau scorers reached double digits: Mickael Pietrus added 16, Julian bagged 14 and Dragan Lukovski and Florent Pietrus contributed 13 each. For Alba, which played without injured star Quadre Lollis, Jovo Stanojevic paced the effort with 22 points. DeJuan Collins, on his Euroleague comeback after injury, added 18 points and Marko Pesic nailed 16.
The first plays saw both teams committing mistakes in offense by running too much, until Rod Sellers scored the first basket from below the rim. From that point, the game started to increase its intensity thanks to the constant fast plays on both sides. A mid-range jumper by Jovo Stanojevic made it 13-10, and later Marko Pesic's fastbreak made it even closer, 13-12. Neither team was allowed to build strategic plays, and therefore, individualities prevailed. Pau-Orthez showed its physical game, mainly in offense as Mickael Pietrus intimidated with his penetrations, to keep the hosts always ahead. Kyle Hill's jumper earned Pau a 23-17 lead, as Alba tried to fight back despite Mithat Demirel's poor contribution in the first minutes. The first quarter ended with the hosts on a maximum lead of 7 points, 25-18.
The second quarter was similar to the first as neither team scored during the first minute, but when Pau started, nothing could stop it. Rod Sellers became the main referent for the hosts in the offensive end, as he found no rival in the paint. Pietrus earned the first double-digit lead for the hosts at 32-22. From that point, Pau rolled. Alba Berlin had in Stanojevic and Pesic its best men, but Sellers would svore again and again from down under, 42-28. The fans were going nuts as Pietrus jumped over the defense to hit his dunks. A long-range jumper by Nino Garris from the side put Alba on the trail down by 10 again, 44-34. But just as if that had bothered the French players, they even pulled stronger, and 4 free throws by Pietrus in the last minute allowed Pau-Orthez to hit the lockerrooms with the biggest lead of the game, 15 points, 51-36.
Alba started with a zone defense after resumption, at the same time as Pau-Orthez played without Sellers with Cyril Julian as the main power in the paint. Both Pietrus and Julian showed their strength in the paint, as Mickael Pietrus hit for three to put Pau 18 points ahead, 54-36. Nino Garris was sat on the bench due to his early fourth foul, and that was also taken advantage of by the hosts, who started to play their best ball yet. Boris Diaw hit the layup for a 20-point lead, and after that, a 6-0 run led by Frederic Fauthoux's three allowed the hosts to come up with their biggest lead of the game, 25 points for 62-37. From that point, Pau relaxed a little and Alba tried to fight back, even if the Germans never looked confident about the win from then on. Julian was having a good performance, and when Sellers stepped back on court, the duo of big men took total control of the paint. In the last minutes of the period, Teo Ozturk did his best to fight back in the frontcourt, but first Diaw, and later Julian on Lukovski's assist, broke the game open for Pau after 30 minutes, 77-54.
The last quarter was a mere formality in which Alba tried to cut as many points as it could, with the main contribution from Marko Pesic. Pau-Orthez concentrated more on offering fancy plays for their fans, and since they didn't always work, Alba started to cut little by little, but never threatening the hosts. The thing that best reflected the new situation on court was the 0-7 run for 81-65. But that was all as Alba never allowed Pau to be over the 20 points again, but neither managed to get closer. Julian's hook from the side for 87-69 kept the thing going, but it was Mickael Pietrus' monster dunk that tear the arena apart with fans cheering in the stands. On his Euroleague comeback after injury, DeJuan Collins wasn't on the best of his shape, but managed to draw a 3-point play for 89-74. In the last plays, Stanojevic went to war on his own, only to get a monster block from Florent Pietrus in the last play of a game that was always dominated by the hosts.
Wednesday, February 5, 2003