Say hello to a new contender in Group A. Alba Berlin has turned its season around with a third consecutive win achieved in thrilling fashion on Thursday, with an 82-80 comeback at home to beat Pau-Orthez. The dramatic results puts both teams at 3-3, part of a four-way tie with Efes Pilsen and Cibona VIP for third place in the group. Alba, down by as many as 16 in the first half, rallied to take over the game in the final quarter. Pau had a chance to tie with 3 free throw opportunites and 4 seconds on the clock, but Dragan Lukovski missed the first of those and Alba was able to hold on for victory. Alba's dominance under then boards was decisive, as Jovo Stanojevic scored 20 points and Quadre Lollis posted a double-double of 19 points and 16 rebounds. With DeJuan Collins scoring 16 and Marko Pesic 15 in the backcourt, the Berliners managed to survive in a spectacular battle of the nerves. Pau was lead by Lukovski with 20 points and Rod Sellers with 19.
Kyle Hill was the catalyst for the visitors to start the game, as his 7 points in the first 4 minutes pushed Pau-Orthez ahead 8-11. Alba, playing without injured team captain Henrik Rodl, was nervous and unprecise as Marko Pesic missed 3 free throws and Garris an easy layup, which gave Sellers the chance to broaden Pau's lead to 8-15. Alba started to fight back with Lollis and Collins both scoring to make it 14-17. But the Berliners kept having problems handling Pau's transition to defense as well as offense. At one end, Pau was forcing Alba to take bad shots, while at the other, Dragan Lukovski was driving at will to put Pau ahead by 8 points, 18-27. Mickael Pietrus, with a huge three-pointer with the siren, made Pau's early lead even bigger, 18-30, after 10 minutes. Lukovski already had 10 points, Sellers 9 and Hill 8. For Alba, only big man Jovo Stanojevic was on target with 7 inside.
Mickael Pietrus went on hitting huge three-pointers at the beginning of the second quarter as the Pau lead soared to 16 points, 22-38. And Alba kept on taking terrible shots. For the first 7 minutes of the quarter, Pesic was Alba's only player scoring, and his 9 points kept the hosts within 27-38. But now, by changing to a taller lineup, with Kevin Rankin at power forward and shifting Quadre Lollis to position three, Alba not only gained dominance under the boards, but found rhythm on defense. That limited Pau's scoring and put Alba's fastbreaks into action. The Berliners roared off on a 13-2 break led by Rankin with 4 points as the deficit was slashed to 35-40. Sellers, with a three-point play, ended the drought for Pau at 35-43, and after a free throw by Lollis, the teams went to halftime with the scoreboard reading 36-43. For Alba, Stanojevic, Pesic and Lollis had 9 points each by then, and Lollis 8 rebounds. For Pau, Sellers was on 13 points and Lukovski 12.
After the break, Able kept scratching to get nearer on the scoreboard by making use of their domninance inside based on Stanojevic and Lollis. But the hosts were also hurting themselves with lousy free throw shooting, under 50 percent at that point. Pau, a little cooler at the foul line, stayed ahaed 43-51. But finally Collins woke up, scoring 5 points in a row to bring Alba within 48-52. Lollis and Stanojevic each added 2 points to bring the hosts even nearer, 54-55, but Fauthoux and Mickael Pietrus hit back with their own baskets for a new five-point lead for Pau, 54-59. The third quarter finsished with three huge triples by Collins, Frederic Fauthoux and Mithat Demirel - Alba, Pau, Alba - which left a 60-62 scoreboard after 30 minutes and a lot of excited fans at Max Schmeling Hall.
There was trouble for Alba right at the beginning of the last quarter as both Collins and Demirel receieved their fourth fouls. But Alba's inside power still worked. Stanojevic's 4 points brought Alba back in touch at 63-64, before Pesic finally with a three-pointer gave the home team a 66-64 lead. Lollis with 4 points and Garris with a triple finished a 13-5 run good for a 73-67 Alba advantage. But Pau was not finished yet, especially not the backcourt players. Lukovski and Hill took Pau by the hand and into the lead again at 75-77. Lollis and Stanojevic took it back at 79-77 for Alba. With 40 seconds left, Hill missed a three-pointer, while Collins came down and scored to put Alba up 81-77. Lukovski made two free throws for Pau with 17 seconds left, but Pesic could only make 1 of 2 for Alba with 9 seconds left, leaving the lead at 82-79. With 4 seconds on the clock, Lukovski was fouled attempting a game-tying three-pointer. He went to the foul line for three shots but missed the first. After making the second, he missed the third on purpose, but Alba grabbed the rebound to preserve the big victory.
Thursday, November 14, 2002
Horst Schneider, Berlin