Tau Ceramica used a record-breaking start to thrash Zalgiris Kaunas 100-69 at home in Vitoria, Spain on Wednesday and take over exclusive control of first place in Group F of the Top 16. Tau raised its record to 2-0, a victory ahead of both Climamio Bologna and Panathinaikos, both 1-1. Zalgiris, meanwhile, dropped to 0-2 and will need to win soon to get back into the playoff race. With 37 points in the first 10 minutes, Tau set a new Top 16 record for points in a quarter and never looked back until it had the blowout victory. Luis Scola led the winners with 26 points on 9-for-14 shooting. Arvydas Macijauskas was right behind with 24 points, 18 of them in that first quarter, when he didn't miss a shot of any kind. Kornel David added 15 points and Travis Hansen 11 for Tau. Former Tau player Mindaugas Timinskas led Zalgiris with 20 points, while Tanoka Beard added 13 and 8 rebounds, but struggled with 5-for-17 shooting. Dainius Salenga had 10 points for the guests.
Tau exploited the fact that Zalgiris used four perimeter starters by going inside to Kornel David for 5 points right away. That and three-pointers from Jose Manuel Calderon and Travis Hansen gave the hosts an 11-3 lead. The fact that Macijauskas and Scola hadn't scored until then ultimately was not a good sign for Zalgiris. Those two extended the gap to 18-5 after only 4 minutes, forcing a first Zalgiris timeout. The visitors collected 5 points then on a monster alley-oop dunk by Tanoka Beard and a triple by Dainius Salenga. But the guests proved inoperative on deffense, especially against their countryman, Macijauskas, who remained hot and poured in 11 straight points as the Tau lead soared to 31-15 lead after 8 minutes. Macijauskas had landed 3 triples by the time the quarter ended with Tau up 37-17 and smashing the record for points scored in any quarter of a Top 16 game. The previous record was 31 points, shared by three teams.
Nothing changed after the break. The Zalgiris defense was butter against Tau's hot knife. The hosts remained almost infallible while shooting, especially from downtown. As such, after a one-handed fastbreak dunk by Macijauskas, Tau had increased the lead to 25 points, 48-23, after 14 minutes. The situation was under control for Tau also under the boards, where the Zalgiris frontcourt was unable to get any rebound. Darius Lavrinovic and Timinskas showed up in this quarter to give the guests a boost, but they could not dent the big deficit much. When Tau relaxed a bit, however, Zalgiris exploited the chance by closing the first half with a 2-11 run that reduced the gap to 55-38.
The pace slowed down a bit after the intermission. Zalgiris adjusted its perimeter defense a little bit better and allowed only 9 points in the first 5 minutes of the third quarter. Tau took advantage of Beard's fourth foul to make a pair of basket-plus-foul plays inside as the lead rose again to 25 points, 72-47, after 27 minutes. Zalgiris tried a zone defense, but Roberto Gabini and Sergi Vidal punished it with three-pointers to establish a new, impenetrable lead of 29 points, 80-51, after 30 minutes.
The guests tried man-to-man defense again in the last quarter, but with its own shooting under 40%, Zalgiris couldn't make noticeable improvement. The best they could do was drop the difference under 30 points, 84-60, midway through the period, but Tau called timeout then to make sure the job got finished without undue loss of point difference, and it did. After Timinskas was called for a flagrant foul on Tiago Splitter, the lead again reached 30 points, 96-66, with 3 minutes to go. The fans waited around for Splitter's layup to mark Tau's 100th point and to celebrate the resurgence of their team in the Top 16.
Wednesday, March 2, 2005