Pau-Orthez secured a berth in the Top 16 on Wednesday night with a 68-56 win over Zalgiris Kaunas. Michael Wright scored 7 during a game-clinching 11-0 run late in the fourth quarter that came just after Zalgiris had cut the gap to 55-54. Pau finishes the regular season with a 7-7 record and fourth place in Group C. Wright ended up with a game-high 24 points – including 13 in the fourth quarter. Aaron Miles added 14 points and 6 assists and C.C. Harrison finished with 13 for the hosts. Tanoka Beard had a double-double before the second quarter was over and finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for Zalgiris, which ended its Euroleague campaign with a 2-12 record. Jonas Maciulis had 9 points and 8 rebounds and Marcelinho Machado added 8 in defeat. The game was a tight affair with countless lead changes throughout the first half. Miles and Harrison hit back-to-back triples to take the lead for good late in the third quarter. Zalgiris remained close however, thanks to solid play by DeJuan Collins, but Wright stepped up with the game on the line and guarenteed the win and at least six more games for Pau this season.
Zalgiris won the opening tip, but only after a sloppy start for both teams did Miles score the game's first points. Maciulis put Zalgiris on the board on the next possession. Miles penetrated for a 6-2 lead, but Machado put the visitors on top 6-7 with the game's first three-pointer, only for Wright to restore Pau's lead on the next play. Beard and Wright traded baskets before Paulius Jankunas and Maciulis made it 10-14 for the guests. Thiery Rupert hit a jumper fresh off the bench and Miles quickly tied the score with a fade-away jumper. Beard corralled Kirk Penney's missed three and scored on the offensive glass to close the first period with Zalgiris up 14-16.
Melvin Sanders drained a three to start the second quarter, before Maciulis answered with three the hard way for the guests. The lead continued to switch hands as Ian Mahinmi scored 4 straight for Pau and Jankunas came right back with a layup to make it 21-22 midway through the period. After Zalgiris's Mantas Kalnietis made one from the line, Sanders tied the score at 23-23. Wright scored an off-balanced layup plus the resulting foul shot for a three-point play, however Beard's next basket gave him a double-double with two minutes left in the first half. Sanders's layup was met by Hanno Mottola's slam to keep the visitors ahead 30-31 at halftime.
Miles started the second half with a jumper, however Machado's hot hand reeled off a triple followed by a jumper for a 32-36 Zalgiris advantage. Pau stormed back with Miles setting Mahinmi up for a dunk and then dishing to Wright for back-to-back scores as Pau went ahead. Beard stopped the run and tied the game from the line and a minute later scored twice more from the charity stripe for a 40-41 Zalgiris lead at the midway point of the third quarter. Miles responded with a three-pointer and Harrison followed suit. DeJuan Collins kept Zalgiris close with a layup, but after a scoring lull, Miles drove for a layup and Harrison's free throw ended the period with the hosts ahead 49-44.
After a slow start to the closing period, Mottola's second chance basket kept Zalgiris close. Both teams continued to miss until Ricardo Greer picked Mottola's pocket and went in for an uncontested layup and a 51-46 Pau lead. Beard and Wright canceleld each other's baskets out before Penney's triple made it 53-51 with 5 minutes left on the clock. Penney's free throws and a Collins layup cut the gap to a single point, but Miles made one from the line to hold the narrow lead. After Mahinmi swatted Collins's shot, Pau called timeout to plan for the closing minutes. When play resumed, Harrison fed Wright inside for a score and Machado turned the ball over on the resulting possession, leaving Zalgiris to call timeout to try and save the game. Wright scored a free throw and after another Zalgiris turnover, Harrison's basket-plus-foul made it 62-54 and started to signal the end. Wright added two more baskets to increase the lead to 12 as the local fans celebrated a big win.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007