Stay tuned, basketball fans, because the Euroleague Finals just got real serious. With Rashard Griffith back in the lineup in Game 2, Kinder Bologna bit back this Thursday night with a resounding 94-73 victory against Tau Ceramica that not only evened the best-of-five series at a victory apiece, but promised a full-metal battle from this point forward. Kinder's wounded pride after a Game 1 loss to visiting Tau on Tuesday healed in a hurry thanks to a rain of three-pointers that left Tau looking uphill almost from the games start. With that fierce pride in place again on defense, Kinder needed nothing more strenuous from Griffith than 9 points a 8 rebounds. With its perimeter stars in a shooting contest with each other, hitting (15 of 26 three-pointers), Kinder didn't need much more. Despite early foul trouble, Antoine Rigaudeau was able to make 6 of 7 three pointers he attempted to total 23 points. Four other Kinder scorers hit for double figures: Marko Jaric with 13, David Andersen and Alessandro Abbio with 14, and Emanuel Ginobili with 11. The series shifts now to Tau's homecourt in Vitoria, Spain and a key Game 3 showdown on Tuesday, May 1. The Euroleague Finals are even up again, and tonight all is right in Basket City, Italy.
From the opening tipoff, Kinder converted any pressure it was facing into suffocating defensive pressure on Tau. After Elmer Bennett drove to the hoop for Tau's first two points, he saw little breathing room, let alone shots, for the rest of the quarter. He was under the wraps of a Kinder fullcourt press that raised the tempo and forced Tau into bad shots. Meanwhile, three-pointers started falling at a good rhythm for the home team. Antoine Rigaudeau hit the first, but was quickly seen to the bench with a couple quick fouls. No matter, because Emanuel Ginobili immediately picked up the tack with a back-to-back threes that opened up Kinder's lead to 15-8 and put the Palamalaguti crowd right in the game, too. Those shots also began a six-minute stretch to the end of the quarters during which an emboldened Kinder defense didn't allow Tau anything but free throws. In that stretch, everyone on Kinder was contributing offensively, too, with young forward David Anderson hopping off the bench for a couple nice baskets whil Griffith caught a short rest. Alessandro Abbio drilled his own three-pointer and Ginobili had a three-point drive to the hoop with 6 seconds left as Kinder closed the quarter with double the points of Tau, 32-16.
The big lead did nothing to soften Kinder in the second quarter. Just the opposite. Only Bennett, who was getting loose again, and Alexander, who was getting decent position underneath, kept Tau from getting blown off the floor. But Kinder's point-center combo was just as big, as Griffith hit back-to-back baskets and Marko Jaric drained a three to boost the lead to 20, at 46-26. Tau steadied itself to finish the half, but despite six consecutive points by Mindaugas Timinskas, Abbio and Jaric stepped up to hit consecutive threes and solidify Kinder's halftime lead at 52-35. the warning signs for Tau were as obvious as the three-point shots made for each team: Kinder 8 for 15, Tau 0 for 5. That meant Kinder was getting a lot of good looks, for various capable shooters, while Tau wasn't getting any.
As it turned out, the Kinder least visible in the first half was the one Tau had most to worry about. Back in the starting lineup for the third quarter, Rigaudeau lined up in the corner three different times in the third quarter and hammered home a three-pointer each time. Most of those were against a zone that Tau had been using since late in the second quarter. With Rigaudeau's nine points, despite Tau finding a little more scoring room and accuracy, the lead not only did not budge, but Kinder headed into the final quarter ahead 70-50. One the themes expected to drive the series was already extablished, as Kinder had five players already with 10 points or more - Griffith wasn't one of them - and wave after wave of subs to fortify that defense. If Tau didn't look precisely tired, few of its players looked sharp, either. Laurent Foirest, one of the heroes of the Game 1 upset, was stuck on 0 points, while sub forward Luis Scola had but one. Kinder was firing on all pistons, and with more to begin with, that was making life hard again for Tau.
Thursday, April 19, 2001