One of the best games without consequence that a basketball fan could ask for went the way of the visitors on Thursday as Maccabi Tel Aviv topped Tau Ceramica by 79-93 in their last Group F game of the Top 16. With the group's ticket to the Final Four having already gone to Benetton Treviso a week earlier, Maccabi took a well-deserved second place with the a record of 4-2. Tau said goodbye to the season with another home loss to drop to 2-4 in third place. Nikola Vujcic was the absolute dominator of the inside game of the guests, leading the way with 30 points. David Bluthental added 12 and Marcus Goree bagged 11. For the losers, Andres Nocioni was the best man again with his 22 points, Luis Scola nailed 16 and Sergi Vidal contributed 15.
Even though the game had no transcendency, the clash saw really brilliant moments. The game started with the hosts being ahead and dominating the game, thanks to a good defense on Maccabi's top guns. The leadership of Jose Manuel Calderon on court and the comeback of Rashard Griffith allowed the hoets to set the tempo of the game. Already in minute 4 also, Tal Burstein had committed his third foul and that allowed Tau to be leading after 10 minutes by 28-23.
The second quarter witnessed the appearance of really strong defenses on both sides. Maccabi managed to close on Tau's offense and then tied the game at 30-30 to pull away later. Despite outrebounding the guests at the end of the game by 39-33, from that moment, Tau was never a threat for the Israeli team. Thanks to Vujcic's performance over Griffith, and later Ruben Wolkowysky, the guests blasted a 14-20 partial score in the second period for a halftime lead of 42-43.
The second half didn't have a story. From the very first minute, Maccabi was very superior to Tau. The guests showed to be a much more compenetrated team than the rival, which also didn't manage to show the same defsnive level as Maccabi. This was translated in a big blowout partial score of 17-31, in which Vujcic did what he wanted. With 8 of 11 two-pointshots, and even 3 of 7 triples, he was the absolute protagonist of the night. By the end of the third quarter, the game was then broken open by 59-74.
The last quarter was the final agony for Tau in the season. Nocioni was the only player in Tau who really tried to stand proud on court but it was too much. The Israeli avalanche didn't stop in the final minutes, and the guests managed to maintain the difference of 14 points until the final buzzer.
Thursday, April 17, 2003
Igor Marin, Vitoria