Montepaschi Siena went into Thursday night knowing it might need to win by at least 44 points to be absolutely sure of making the Top 16. It did better than that. With 40 minutes of fullcourt pressing defense and all its offensive talent in full swing, Montepaschi handed Buducnost the biggest loss in three Euroleague seasons so far, 112-49. That 63-point winning margin helped Montepaschi take the last Top 16 berth as the best sixth-place team across three groups. It finished at 6-8, the same as Pau-Orthez in Group A and Real Madrid in Group C, but its 40-point positive point differential after the blowout was more than enough to win their tiebreaker. The outcome itself was clear in a matter of minutes on Thursday as Montepaschi opened the game with a 15-0 run. But what came after was more of the same, as the lead climbed in leaps of 20 points while the Montepaschi press forced 30 turnovers on Buducnost. Mirsad Turkcan led the way for Montepaschi, posting 22 points and pulling 13 rebounds in 30 minutes. Alphonso Ford tallied 20 more points, Roberto Chiacig 19 and Dusan Vukcevic 13. Dejan Milojevic bagged 12 for the guests, who finished the season 2-12.
With Aaron Mitchell replacing Vrbica Stefanov at the point, Montepaschi started on fire, throwing a zone press at Buducnost that yielded 3 quick steals and a 7-0 lead in less than 2 minutes. After another steal, Roberto Chiacig put back a Turkcan miss, got fouled and made the free throw for a 10-0 lead. And it didn't stop there. Buducnost was embarassed as Montepaschi increased the lead to 15-0 with Mitchell already scoring 7 points. The first basket of guests came from Dejan Milojevic, who proceeded to add 2 more as Buducnost pulled back to within 20-10. Still, Montepaschi's press continued to force turnovers and produce easy shots for the hosts. But with its man-to-man defense digging in better, Buducnost rallied to within 23-16 on a Zarko Cabarkapa jam. Now, Ford came alive for Montepaschi with 5 consecutive points for a new bit advantage, 28-16. Turkcan added a pair of free throws before the buzzer and Montepaschi had a 14-point lead, 30-16, after 10 minutes.
Montepaschi's intensity didn't waver at all in the second period. Just the opposite. The fullcourt press and the man-to-man in halfcourt defense were relentless, delivering steal after steal as the Italians roared ahead by 24 points, 42-18, after a 19-2 partial on a dunk by Turkcan. The game was already practically over in terms of outcome, but Montepaschi certainly knew what was happening elsewhere. So the hosts continued to go full-charge in its press. The lead ballooned to 46-20 and Buducnost all but disappeared completely from the wood. Ford was now ready with his own dunk after yet another steal to finish a new run of 11-2 as the lead soared to 57-22. Montepaschi was not finished. The agony for Buducnost continued to 61-24 score at halftime. TurKcan led the way with 15 points, while Ford had 12 and Mitchell 9 others. Milojevic was the best scorer for Buducnost with 7 points.
Montepaschi started the third period increasing till the 44 points of advantage needing to reach matemathically the Top 16 after three minutes on 68-24 with a lay up of Roberto Chiacig. But the agony followed, and Mirsad Turkcan slamming the ball gave to Siena an incredible +51, 77-26 in the middle of the period. Siena wanted to reach the Top 16, and Buducnost surely helped them, 85-30 became the largest lead, but after thirty minutes became 94-33.
The fourth period was just a wait for the final buzzer and the results of the other games, with Montepaschi again defending and running in the open court, always playing with its starters, improving till 109-38 its best advantage. When it finished, 112-49, the 63-point winning margin was by far the biggest in the three-year history of the Euroleague. The previous biggest margin had been 47 points when Olympiacos beat Ovarense of Portugal in the 2000-01 regular season.
Thursday, February 13, 2003