Tau Ceramica put itself in position to make the quarterfinal playoffs even without another victory when it overwhelmed visiting GHP Bamberg 71-51 at home in Group F on Wednesday. Tau raised its record to 3-1 in second place of Group F, two victories ahead of third-place Lietuvos Rytas. Another victory of its own or any loss by Lietuvos Rytas in the last two games remaining will put Tau in the playoffs. Bamberg fell to 0-4 and is now eliminated despite becoming Germany's first team ever in a Top 16. Wednesday's victory was Tau's fourth in as many tries against Bamberg: two each in the regular season and Top 16. It was apparent that Tau felt confident when it blasted to a 22-6 first-quarter lead, after which there was little question about the outcome. Casey Jacobsen ended up leading the winners with 17 points, while Sergi Vidal added 11. Predrag Drobnjak and Kornel David chipped in 9 each. The real evidence of Tau's dominance was in its best defensive performance of the season, which let only one Bamberg scorer reach double figures, Robert Garrett with 11 points.
Although Luis Scola scored a short turnaround jumper on his first attempt, Tau needed more than 2 minutes to find its way to the basket after that, allowing Bamberg to keep the score tied at 2-2 in the early going. While Tau's defense dominated, Kornel David and Sergi Vidal came to the rescue to give the hosts their first solid lead at 9-2 after 4 minutes and forcing Bamberg's first timeout. Jacobsen widened the gap from behind the arc right after that, before Bamberg found some relief from Spencer Nelson and Derrick Phelps, who scored on a dunk and a layup, respectively, to get the visitors within 12-6. Tau responded by increasing its defensive intensity and holding Bamberg scoreless until the end of the quarter. Jacobsen started and ended Tau's 10-0 run with a free throw and a triple to put the hosts fully in charge, 22-6, after 10 minutes.
Bamberg switched to zone defense to start the second quarter, and it succeeded in taking Tau out of its rhythm. The hosts had 3 free throws to show for the first 3 minutes. Unfortunately for the visitors, they kept struggling in offense due to poor shooting, so the score differences remained stable. Travis Hansen's corner three-pointer got Tau unstuck and a free throw by Tiago Splitter reestablished a 16-point lead, 28-12. Bamberg's only weapon then was Dickey Simpkins, but he got no help from his teammates in offense. As such, Tau needed few things to keep rocking, even when they experimented with twing point guards, Lionel Chalmers and Roko-Leni Ukic, for the remainder of the second quarter, after which the hosts were completely in control at 38-20.
Demond Mallet opened fire after intermission with a three-pointer, the first of the night for Bamberg, but it didn't change much. Bamberg missed shots on its next seven possessions. Scola and Jacobsen took advantage to send Tau on a 7-0 run that increased the margin to 47-23 and forced a Bamberg timeout. Chris Ensminger ended the visitors' drought with a hook shot right after that, sparking a 1-8 run to reduce the gap to 48-31 after 28 minutes. Tau tried to stop Bamberg's comeback with a timeout, but Robert Garrett showed with a jump shot that the good streak was not over. Tau found itself totally blind, unable to hit the rim, so Bamberg needed few things to end the third quarter trailing by 15 points, 50-35, but still hoping for a comeback.
Although Ensminger made a couple of free throws to make Bamberg come as close as 50-37 early in the final quarter, Tau found a quick answer in Chalmers and Jacobsen to stay calm with a 55-37 lead. Things stopped at that point, as both teams remained scoreless for 2 minutes until Nelson scored a baseline layup. Although the visitors improved on offense, high differences remained throughout the quarter. Tau chose Jacobsen and Predrag Drobnjak as its main weapons, and that proved to be enough to prevent Bamberg from rallying. As such, the hosts retained a 16-point lead, 62-46, entering the last 3 minutes. With the outcome beyond doubt, Tau spent the remaining time protecting its high margin and in the end allowed just 51 points for its best defensive performance of the season.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006