It had to pick up its game in the second half, but Tau Ceramica maintained its status as undefeated leader in Group B by imposing its quality against Buducnost in Podgorica on Wednesday night to win 71-81. Tau climbed to 4-0 behind 18 points from Luis Scola, 17 from Hanno Mottola and 13 from Jerome Allen. Despite its best efforts for the home fans, Buducnost remains winless in this Euroleague at 0-4, even though the talent of its young roster will meet one victim sooner or later. John Brown was the best man of the hosts with 29 points and Alaksandar Smiljanic added 13.
During the first two quarters, one could hardly tell any differences between the team that was 3-0 and the one that was 0-3. Tau, who was the favorite on the paper, came across as a young and ambitious team, diving for loose balls and using a good zone defense for most of the first half. Tau didn't have any advantage under the rims, and since its shooting wasn't too accurate either, Buducnost was always either ahead or very close behind. The maximum lead for the hosts arrived in minute 7 after a three-pointer by Zarko Cabarkapa, 18-13, but 4 points by Andres Nocioni in the last plays of the period gave the minimum lead back to Tau, 19-20.
In the second quarter, Tau managed to forge its own seven-point lead, but then Smiljanic appeared for Buducnost to drain 2 consecutive threes and balance the score again. With a basket by Brown, who has been getting better game by game, Buducnost took the lead again, 34-33, and only two turnovers by Walsh Jordan and an offensive foul by Dejan Milojevic allowed Tau a one-point lead at the break, 39-40.
The second half, until the last minutes, resembled the first two quarters, as balance was the dominant note, as well as mistakes and poor shooting percentages for both sides. Brown, who played his best game since he arrived in Podgorica, put his team ahead twice, at 48-47 and 50-49, but Mottola answered quickly to give Tau a 50-51 edge. A missed three by Sinisa Kovacevic and travelling on Milojevic allowed Tau to take a breath after a basket by Scola and free throws by Sergi Vidal, 52-57.
A three by Mottola, forged the first double-digit lead for the hosts, 52-62, but the game wasn't over yet. Playing better in the paint, Buducnost climbed back on a 12-3 run to within 64-65. Then, at 64-67, Smiljanic missed an important three while Paladino hit his own triple in the following play for a 64-70 Tau lead. The hosts tried the zone defense again, and the fifth foul by Scola at 64-72 looked like an advantage for Buducnost, but with Jordan struggling, Miloevic almost invisible and Cabarkapa injured in the third quarter, Buducnost didn't have enough left to rally for the upset.
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
Milivoje Kovacevic, Podgorica