Zalgiris Kaunas failed to increase its chances for the Group G ticket to the Final Four when it lost at home in Lithuania on Thursday, 87-100 to Pamesa Valencia. Zalgiris and Maccabi will meet to decide the group winner next week in Tel Aviv, as expected. Both teams are 3-2. So is Pamesa, but as a result of its sanction for not appearing at its Week 4 game in Tel Aviv, it will automatically lose in any tie situation, the best it can do against the Maccabi-Zalgiris winner next week. Zalgiris lost a great opportunity to take advantage of Ulker's win against Maccabi on Thursday. Had Zalgiris won, it would go to Tel Aviv not needing a win, but only to lose by fewer than 7 points, as it had beaten Maccabi in Kaunas by 8 in their first meeting. The man of the night from tipoff forward was Antoine Rigaudeau, who finished with 30 points for Pamesa. Fabricio Oberto added 21, Alejandro Montecchia 16 and Demos Dikoudis 12. Likewise, five Zalgiris players also scored in double digits, led by Ed Cota with 20 points. Arvydas Sabonis added 17, Tanoka Beard 16, Mindaugas Timinskas 11 and Giedrius Gustas 11.
Rigaudeau was the man from the very start, scoring the game's first 7 points in just 2 minutes. Ainars Bagatskis, who turned 37 a couple of days ago, got Zalgiris going with a three-pointer, but soon Fabrizio Oberto increased Pamesa's margin to 3-9. Sabonis took the reigns of the game for a while by scoring a couple of close baskets. Arturas Javtokas then added a couple free throws after an offensive rebound to tie 9-9 midway through the quarter. Timinskas fouled and was also called a technical which meant for Pamesa 2 more points by Rigaudeau and a new lead, 9-13. Dejan Tomasevic and Oberto took advantage of Zalgiris mistakes to bump it higher, to 9-17. After a timeout, Tanoka Beard entered and made a basket for Zalgliris, but Rigaudeau was still the main problem for the hosts' defense. He made 2 more layups for 15 points already of an 11-22 Pamesa lead. Of a few Zalgiris possessions left, only a triple by Giedrius Gustas allowed the hosts to get as close as 14-22 after 10 minutes.
Gustas also reduced the gap to 17-22 early in the second quarter after Pamesa missed a couple shots near the basket, but Rigaudeau remained impeccable from the line and Robert Pack picked up a fastbreak basket for the guests. Soon, Sabonis and Gustas connected for 4 Zalgiris points, but all those were answered by a pair of Demos Dikoudis baskets, who then added a third to restore an 11-point margin, 21-32, for Pamesa. A triple by Jose Antonio Paraiso increased that to a dozen points, 25-37, while Zalgiris continued to struggle against Pamesa's defense. Nothing was working for the hosts on either end, and Pamesa, quicker than Zalgiris on offense, kept increasing the margin in front of a frustrated crowd. To close the period, Ed Cota picked up a couple foul shots, but the scoreboard was still deflating for the hosts, 29-44.
Zalgiris started the second half similarly lacking ideas on offense while creating loopholes on defense through which Pamesa surged ahead by 20 points, 29-49. Cota hit a couple of triples to stop the bleeding, and Sabonis went for a three-point play. Still Rigaudeau, Tomasevic and Oberto held back Zalgiris. Rigaudeau continued to score despite Cota's defensive efforts, though the latter was more succesful on offense, scoring his 14th point of the night. Zalgiris finally reduced the margin to 10 points, 49-59, but Pamesa immediately answered with 4 points. Sabonis then hit from downtown Beard added a free throw, but Cota sent Dikoudis to the line to establish a 53-64 scoreboard in Pamesa's favor after 30 minutes.
The fourth quarter opened with Dikoudis hitting a fadeaway jumper and Javtokas commiting an offensive foul. Paraiso went for a three-point play but missed from the line. Beard missed from the paint and got an unsportmanlike foul, and Zalgiris's game started again to go to pieces. A Cota basket-plus-foul gave the hosts hope at 58-70 with 7 minutes to go. But there Alejandro Montecchia stepped in with 2 killer triples and Zalgiris's chances got really thin. After Sabonis's fourth foul, Paraiso restored the 20-point lead from the line. By the time Rigaudeau went to the line on the other end for his 24th and 25th points, the handwriting was on the wall. The last 3 minutes did little to change the fact of a clear win for Pamesa that Zalgiris must forget before facing Maccabi in Tel Aviv for the Final Four berth next week.
Thursday, April 1, 2004
Arunas Pakula, Kaunas