Benetton Treviso became the first team in Group A and the second overall in the Euroleague, after Panathinaikos, to clinch a berth in the Top 16 with a commanding 100-71 victory over Alba of Berlin tonight at home in Treviso. Benetton's offense was the story as usual as it stormed through Alba's defense throughout the game. Benetton improves to 9-2 with the win and can now finish no worse than third in its group, which guarantees them a spot in the playoffs. Alba now falls to 3-8 following this defeat and can only act as spoiler in its remaining three games. Tyus Edney returned to the lineup for the Italians and appeared well rested and fresh despite having missed the last Euroleague game. He finished with 16 points in only 17 minutes on the floor as Mario Stojic led Benetton with 19, Bostjan Nachbar added 18 and Massimo Bulleri 12. Dejan Koturovic led Alba with 17 points and Wendell Alexis added 14. The visitors were as close as 48-42 at the half, but Benetton exploded for a 27-10 third quarter that decided everything in one fell swoop.
Wendell Alexis's two three-pointers that kept Alba in the game at 9-8 after a fiery start by Mike D'Antoni's team. Jorg Luctke gave Alba it's first lead at 12-11, but Benetton, which is always on the offensive, was ready to counter despite the poor quality of play on the court. The two teams played entirely different styles of basketball, Berlin always looking for the easy shot, Treviso wanting the best shot as soon as possible. Behind the shooting of Stefano Garris, Alba retook the lead at 20-18 in the ninth minute but that would be its last advantage.
In the second quarter, although Pittis began tightening his defense on Alexis, Alba was still able to circulate the ball very well and work it under the basket, refusing to allow Benetton to escape even after going up 30-22 and 38-30. The lead was still only eight points at halftime, 48-40 as Massimo Bulleri tried to take it to the basket despite being well guarded.
The game took on a completely different tone in the third quarter as Benetton ran away with it. Benetton, whose offense moves at dragster speed, put its scoring machine into high gear for the next 10 minutes. Bostjan Nachbar was unstoppable, Edney was everywhere, and Mario Stojic helped lead Alba into a tunnel of white and green defense that anticipated every pass, and produced many steals (23 by the end of the game). Benetton's swarming defense gave their offense many easy fastbreaks that led to the Italians outscoring their opponents 28-10 in that quarter, putting the game out of reach for the Germans.
In the fourth period Berlin saw the game and its already-slim chance for fourth place in Group A evaporate. The 36th minute of the game saw the widest margin between the two teams with Benetton leading, 93-60.
Wednesday, January 16, 2002
Luigi Maffei, Treviso