2008-09PlayoffsGame 3
March 31, 2009 CET: 20:30
Local time: 20:30 FERNANDO BUESA ARENA

Tau Ceramica topped Regal FC Barcelona 69-62

Tau Ceramica made the homecourt advantage it stole earlier in the series count in full when it rolled past Regal FC Barcelona 69-62 on Tuesday at Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria, Spain, to claim a 2-1 advantage in their best-of-five Quarterfinal Playoffs. Tau can clinch its fifth consecutive Final Four appearance when it hosts Game 4, too, on Thursday. The hosts took advantage of Barcelona missing injured superstar Juan Carlos Navarro by establishing early leads and turning back every second-half comeback attempt by the visitors. The last of those Barcelona rallies brought the visitors within 63-58 with under 2 minutes left, but a turnover by the guests led to Igor Rakocevic hitting a huge baseline jumper over shot-block expert Fran Vazquez to seal the victory. Rakocevic led the winners with 17 points, while Tiago Splitter added 13, Pete Mickeal 11 and Mirza Teletovic 10. Barcelona got 20 points from Jaka Lakovic, but none of the other visitors got into double digits. In the end, Tau withstood 22 turnovers by shooting 57% on two-pointers and dominating the boards, 35-29, to move within a step of another Final Four!

Looking to protect Splitter from early foul trouble, Dusko Ivanoviv started with Mirza Teletovic and Will McDonald in the frontcourt, as Barcelona used Gianluca Basile as a replacement for Navarro. The changes seemed to work better for the hosts in the beginning, as a pair of layups by Fakocevic and Prigioni, followed by a fastbreak basket from Pete Mickeal gave Tau a quick 6-0 lead. But Barcelona didn’t panic and broke the trend thanks to a monster dunk by Daniel Santiago. Lubos Barton took over then to tie the score, 6-6, less than a minute later. Defenses prevailed after that, as neither team was able to find momentum on offense. Tau struggled in its half-court offense, finding points only from the free throw line, while Barcelona missed some open shots and got no second-chance points despite its frontcourt size advantage. A three-pointer by Jaka Lakovic and tip-in by Fran Vazquez were enough to maintain a tie, 11-11, after 8 minutes left, but Tau found an unexpected boost as Will McDonald drilled a triple from the top of the circle to cap a 5-0 last-minute run to bring the hosts ahead 16-11 at the end of one quarter.

The hosts kept rocking into the second quarter, amassing a nine-point lead behind layups by Splitter and Fernando San Emeterio. Andre Barrett came to the rescue for Barcelona with a three-pointer as the visitors switched to zone defense to slow down the game rhythm of the game and prevent Tau from fast-breaking. But the main problem for Barcelona was on offense, where its shooters had hit only a 20% of their three-point tries midway through the second quarter. A basket-plus-free throw by Sergi Vidal boosted Tau's lead to 23-14, forcing an urgent timeout by Barcelona head coach Xavi Pascual. After that talk, David Andersen, Roger Grimau and Santiago made consecutive buckets to take the guests within 23-20 in the blink of an eye. But the visitors' comeback stopped there, as Tau reacted with an enhanced defensive effort. Barcelona would go scoreless for the last 4 minutes before the half, collecting turnovers and missed open shots, which allowed Tau to smoothly re-gain a more comfortable margin, 29-20, behind free throws by Rakocevic and Splitter going into the half.

Fran Vazquez opened the third quarter with a turn-around jumper for Barcelona, after which triples by his teammates, Lakovic and Gianluca Basile, boosted the visitors. Tau based its offense around Splitter, who added a two-handed dunk and a hook shot to keep hosts leading 33-28 after 22 minutes. Barcelona seemed to have taken over the pace of the game, but Mickeal first and then Teletovic, with a monster three-pointer, raised Tau's difference again to 9 points, 39-30, midway through the third quarter. The game turned back into a half-court battle, with both teams showing that nerves were taking over. The defenses ruled for several minutes until Grimau and Barton, with a layup and corner three-pointer, respectively, reduced the gap to 43-37. In the third quarter's final minute, however, Ilyasova missed a fastbreak dunk that would have cut the difference further, and Pablo Prigioni punished that mistake with a buzzer-beating triple that restored Tau's nine-point lead, 46-37, after 30 minutes.

Mickeal opened fire in the fourth quarter and Teletovic buried a triple to extend Tau's lead to 51-41. Lakovic rose up then, however, hitting his own triple at 51-44 with 7 minutes left. Out of a Tau timeout, Vidal hit free throws and Splitter drew an offensive foul on Santiago before a shot-clock beater by Rakocevic made it 55-44 Tau. Barcelona looked for a change, using Grimau defense on Prigioni and feeding Andersen insidefor two baskets. Santiago followed with free throws, but the hosts found quick answers through a Teletovic fast-break dunk and a short jumper by Rakocevic to keep a safe margin, 61-52, with 3 minutes to go. Baskets were hard to come by after that, as both teams scored only from the free-throw line. Lakovic and Andersen combined for 3 of 4 foul shots, but Prigioni's pair kept Tau ahead 63-55 with 2 minutes remaining. Lakovic made it a six-point game, 63-57, and drew a flagrant foul on Rakocevic that seemed to put Tau's lead in real danger. Lakovic hit only 1 of 2 foul shots, however, and after Andersen was called for travelin, Rakocevic hit his step-back jumper over Vazquez to calme the hosts at 65-58 entering the last minute. Barcelona didn’t give up, though. Lakovic came up big again with easy layup and found 2 more free throws right after that to make it 65-62 with 26 seconds to go. Basile fouled Rakocevic, whose free throws extended the difference to 67-62, forcing Barcelona to foul again. When Mickeal made his free throws, too, the outcome was sealed, and Tau was one step far from making its fifth consecutive Final Four appearance.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Natxo Mendaza, Vitoria
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Attendance: 9600
By Quarter1234
Tau Ceramica16131723
Regal FC Barcelona1191725
End of Quarter1234
Tau Ceramica16294669
Regal FC Barcelona11203762
Tau Ceramica
  Rebounds Blocks Fouls
# Player Min Pts 2FG 3FG FT O D T As St To Fv Ag Cm Rv PIR
5 PRIGIONI, PABLO 34:41 7 1/3 1/1 2/2   4 4 6 3 3     3 3 15
6 ILIEVSKI, VLADO 2:50                              
8 RAKOCEVIC, IGOR 27:05 15 5/8 0/5 5/7   1 1 1 2 7   1 2 6 5
9 VIDAL, SERGI 25:14 7 2/3 0/1 3/3 1 2 3 2 1 1     4 3 9
11 ESLAVA, ARIEL DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
12 TELETOVIC, MIRZA 30:58 10 2/2 2/3     4 4 1   1     3   10
19 SAN EMETERIO, FERNANDO 4:53 2 1/3 0/1     1 1         2 1   -3
21 SPLITTER, TIAGO 31:00 13 4/7   5/8 2 3 5 2 2 2 1   4 7 18
33 MICKEAL, PETE 25:19 11 4/7 0/1 3/3 1 8 9 1   5 1     2 15
42 BARAC, STANKO DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
45 MCDONALD, WILL 18:00 4   1/1 1/2   3 3     1 1   4 1 3
Team           3 2 5     2         3
Totals 200:00 69 19/33 4/13 19/25 7 28 35 13 8 22 3 3 21 22 75
        57.6% 30.8% 76%
Min: Minutes played; Pts: Points; 2FG M-A: 2-point Field Goals (Made-Attempted); 3FG M-A: 3-point Field Goals (Made-Attempted); FT M-A: Free Throws (Made-Attempted); Rebounds: O (Offensive), D (Defensive), T (Total); As: Assists; St: Steals; To: Turnovers; Bl: Blocks (Fv: In Favor / Ag: Against); Fouls: Cm (Commited), Rv (Received); PIR: Performance Index Rating
Regal FC Barcelona
  Rebounds Blocks Fouls
# Player Min Pts 2FG 3FG FT O D T As St To Fv Ag Cm Rv PIR
5 BASILE, GIANLUCA 27:53 7 1/2 1/5 2/2       3 4 2     5 3 5
6 BARRETT, ANDRE 7:07 3   1/1   1   1             1 5
8 TRIAS, JORDI DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
9 BARTON, LUBOS 18:34 7 2/2 1/3   2 2 4   1 2     1   7
10 LAKOVIC, JAKA 32:17 20 1/3 3/9 9/10       3 3 2   1 2 8 20
13 ANDERSEN, DAVID 27:13 9 4/9 0/1 1/2 1 3 4 1 1 3 1   4 2 4
17 VAZQUEZ, FRAN 21:58 6 3/6     2 4 6 1 1   1 1 2   9
21 ILYASOVA, ERSAN 14:11   0/6 0/3   1 1 2     2     1   -10
22 RABASEDA, XAVIER DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
24 SADA, VICTOR 8:08           1 1 2 1       1 1 4
25 SANTIAGO, DANIEL 17:00 6 2/3   2/2   1 1     1     3 4 6
44 GRIMAU, ROGER 25:39 4 2/7 0/1   2 4 6     2 1 1 3 2 1
Team           2 2 4   1           5
Totals 200:00 62 15/38 6/23 14/16 11 18 29 10 12 14 3 3 22 21 56
        39.5% 26.1% 87.5%
Head coach: PASCUAL, XAVI

Head Coaches

Tau Ceramica
"It was a low-scoring game, but we saw great defenses on both sides. We wanted to base our victory on our defense tonight. We made big mistakes in defensive rebounding in the first half and committed too many turnovers all game long, but the only thing that mattered tonight was to win and we did it. Probably nerves took over both teams and that led to too many mistakes, but now it’s only the past. Now only Thursday exists. If we are able to play faster, we will probably get more easy baskets, but we are facing a great team in Barcelona, which plays great defense. We found the patience we needed tonight, so we need to do the same in Game 4. The Fans were excellent. Navarro’s absence pushed other players to give a bigger production."
Regal FC Barcelona
"I want to congratulate Tau for this win. I think we did a good job in the first half controlling the pace of the game. We wanted a slow tempo and we got it by playing long possessions, but we missed shots. We missed points. We didn’t make the best decisions on offense and that hurt our shooting percentages and cost us free throws. We missed a better flow in general. Our offense was bad in the first half. We managed to get closer in the second, but we committed some key mistakes that prevented us from capping the comeback. Ilyasova missed a key fastbreak in the third quarter and Andersen committed a turnover in the fourth that could have changed the trend, but that is basketball and these things happen. Navarro is a key player for this team, but the others fought hard tonight and did a great job replacing him. The game was like we planned, but we missed more accuracy sometimes."


Tau Ceramica
"We suffered a lot tonight, but it’s something we expected. Every game at this point is tough and close fought. We managed to be calm and keep our concentration and that gave us the win. It was very important to start winning at home, but now it doesn’t matter at all. The next game, Game 4, is the only one right now. It’s like it was the first one. This game was more tactical, the previous two registered big differences that didn’t happen tonight. Navarro’s absence increased other player’s performance, but we were able to guard them well and keep them to only 20 points in the first half, which was very important."
Regal FC Barcelona
"We were close, but we came up short in the end. We managed to come within 4 or 5 points several times in the second half, but we missed easy baskets that could have changed the game. They punished us when we missed and retained the 8- or 9-point leads that hurt us a lot. The game was not very good to watch as we all committed many mistakes. There were not a lot of points, so we could say that the less bad team won. We did not shoot well tonight and that condemned us. We need to play harder on defense and more concentrated in offense to be able to win Game 4."
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