Tau Ceramica set up a showdown in Moscow next week for the Group D title when it dismissed winless Cibona 95-76 at home in Vitoria, Spain on Wednesday. The win raised Tau's record to 3-1, a victory behind undefeated CSKA (4-0). The two teams meet in Moscow next week with Tau needing to win by four points or more to take over first place. On Wednesday against Cibona, Tau put on an offensive and defensive exhibition, led by Andres Nocioni with 22 points in 23 minutes. Sergi Vidal added 19 points for the winners, and doubled up with 10 rebounds. Kornel David and Andrew Betts posted 10 points each. Only Josip Sesar, with 17 points, and Davor Kus, with 16, were able to break into double figures for Cibona, who scored 32 of its points in the final quarter.
Few expected a big battle when Cibona came to Vitoria without scorers Josip Vrankovic and Slaven Rimac, and the first 3 minutes were enough to confirm that assumption. Tau started hot, with Arvydas Macijauskas and Kornel David combining for a 12-0 run that forced the first timeout by Cibona coach Drazen Anzulovic. The margin increased to 14-0 before Cibona managed to score on a shot by Andrea Zizic. Tau coach Dusko Ivanovic, who decided to keep Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni on the bench to begin the game, called on the Argentinean duo midway through the first period as the gap got wider step by step. Josip Sesar hit the first three of the night for a 25-9 score after 9 minutes for the same difference that marked the end of the quarter, 29-11.
Cibona could not get going against Tau's amazing defensive quickness. The hosts took advantage of Cibona's poor shooting and turnovers to reach a 20-point difference after 13 minutes. After a timeout, Cibona tried a zone defense, but even when Tau was not very accurate from the perimeter, both boards were under its control. The problems didn't end for Cibona as Sesar comitted his third foul before heading the bench after 16 minutes an 42-16 on the scoreboard. Nocioni, whose performance had been spotty in recent games, sat down after 19 minutes having collected 15 points and made 7 out of 7 free throws as the first half ended with a 51-26 score.
Pablo Prigioni opened fire after the intermission with a three-pointer, giving Tau its biggest margin yet, 54-26. That started a shooting contest, with both teams attempting from the same distance to get points. Davor Kus and Sergi Vidal hit one apiece until David finished a fastbreak with an alley-oop to increase the margin to 30 points at 61-31 midway through the third period. Andrew Betts headed the bench right after that, receiving a warm welcome by teammates and fans because of his good performance. Although Macijauskas didn't find the way to the basket, but Tau had a good compensation from Vidal, an unexpected scoring force in this quarter, which ended with Tau 29 points ahead, 73-44.
Sesar seemed to be the only guest able to put Tau in some trouble as he got 5 points in a row early in the fourth quarter. But Cibona allowed Jose Manuel Calderon to make a three-pointer and David to score an easy layup in the following play, stopping this timid attempt at a reaction. Although Kus and Sesar kept scoring, nobody else helped, giving Tau a calm end of the game. Even when Cibona managed to reduce the gap to 87-66 after 37 minutes, Nocioni nailed a three with the shot clock expiring, signalling an exchange of baskets that continued to the final 95-76 scoreboard.
Wednesday, March 24, 2004