In a battle to stay alive in tight Group C, Tau Ceramica held serve on its homecourt, outlasting Pau-Orthez 93-87 on Thursday in Vitoria, Spain. Tau evened its record at 4-4, good for a fourth-place tie with Benetton Treviso. Pau-Orthez fell to 2-6, finding itself tied for sixth place with Unicaja and Opel Skyliners. Jose Manuel Calderon led five Tau scorers in double figures with 21 points. Arvydas Macijauskas added 20 points, including 10-for-10 free throw shooting, while Tiago Splitter had 16, Luis Scola 14 and David Kornel 13. For Pau, Laurent Foirest hit 5 three-pointers, most in a late rally try, for 21 points. Thierry Rupert added 16, Mire Chatman 13 and Artur Drozdov 12.
After a warm welcome for former Tau players Foirest and Thierry Gadou, the game pace was really fast in the early going, although neither Tau nor Pau managed to find the basket much. As such, the score remained low, 7-5 for Tau, midway through the first quarter. Scola extended the lead to 9-5 with a jump shot, but Pau quickly tied 9-9 after 7 minutes with fastbreaks baskets by Chatman and Gadou. The first three-pointer of the night came from the hand of Federic Fauthoux and was followed by Rupert's jumper off the glass for Pau's first advantage, 13-14. The lead changed in every possession until the end of the quarter, when Scola's third basket left Tau ahead 17-16.
In the second quarter, Tau kept pushing inside, to Scola and just-arrived Splitter. Pau wasn't playing a great offensive basketball, but was patient enough to tie 25-25 on a triple by Foirest after 15 minutes. Three free throws by Splitter and 2 by Conley gave Tau a 30-25 margine, but Pau managed to rally again to tie 30-30 on Chatman's five-meter jump shot. Every basket was quickly answered by each side, although initiative was always with Tau. Pau missed easy baskets at the end of the quarter as the first half ended with another tie on the board, 41-41.
Early in the third quarter, Tau point guard Jose Manuel Calderon nailed back-to-back three pointers to answer those by Gadou and Foirest. Soon, however, Foirest landed another bomb to put Pau ahead 53-54 after 25 minutes. Tau's defense sparked a 7-0 run for the hosts, but Pau refused to panic and reacted with 5 points in a row from Davor Marcelic and T.J. Lux to prevent Tau from escaping. Splitter and Kornel David showed more intensity than Pau's frontcourt from that moment, drawing fouls and scoring inside to give Tau a small edge, 67-63, after 30 minutes.
Tau's defensie intensified noticeable to start the final quarter. Splitter showed that his injury problems are bheind him while pushing Tau ahead 71-63 after 32 minutes. Rupert battled against the taller Tau centers to score Pau's first 6 points of the quarter, but the hosts retained a solid 77-69 margin going into the final 5 minutes. A dunk-plus-free throw by Calderon gave Tau its first double-digit advantage, 82-72 with 3 minutes to go, but amazing back-to-back three pointers by Foirest revived Pau and forced a Tau timeout. Foirest's show didn't end here, as he hit another incredible bomb to cut the difference all the way to 3 points, 84-81, after 39 minutes. Nevertheless, it was Pau's last breathe as Tau took advantage of fouls to add points from the free throw line to seal an all-important fourth victory in Group C.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Natxo Mendaza, Vitoria