Tau Ceramica keeps fighting for its first-ever Euroleague title! Tau advanced to its third consecutive Final Four on Thursday by beating Olympiacos 89-95 in Pireaus, Greece, to sweep their best-of-three Quarterfinal Playoffs series. Tau had thrashed Olympiacos 84-59 in Game 1 in Vitoria, Spain, so it won the series 2-0 and will face Panathinaikos in one of the Final Four semifinals at Athens Olympic Indoor Hall (OAKA) on May 4. Luis Scola led the winners with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Tiago Splitter added 18 points on 7-of-9 two-pointers and 9 rebounds. Igor Rakocevic had 17 points and Sergi Vidal 13 for Tau. Alex Acker paced Olympiacos with 19 points. Henry Domercant added 17 for the Reds, Arvydas Macijauskas 13, Scoonie Penn 12 and Andrija Zizic 11. Tau led 41-44 at halftime and boosted its margin to 68-78 with 2 minutes to go. Tau kept its calm in the free throw line to hold off a late Olympiacos rally and advance to the Final Four.
Giannis Bouroussis found Domercant in the paint for a one-handed dunk to get the Reds going after tipoff, while Splitter connected for Tau to tie 2-2. Tau tried to feed the ball inside, while Olympiacos used its passing game to create open opportunities such as the triple by Acker that made it 6-2. Tau recorded its second basket 4 minutes after tipoff on a nice drive by Rakocevic, while Scola earned and hit 4 straight free throws that pushed the guests in front, 6-8. Sofoklis Schortsianitis climbed off the bench to immediately connect for Olympiacos. The Reds then pushed on the accelerator to get easy fastbreak points from Acker and Penn at 15-10. Macijauskas stepped on the Peace and Friendship Stadium floor for the first time in an official game and the fans welcomed him by singing his name, but it was Penn who boosted the difference to 17-11 on an off-balance shot. Sergi Vidal was there to curb the hosts' enthusiasm, however. First, he scored off an offensive board and then managed to beat the buzzer with a dunk that closed the first quarter at 19-16.
Bouroussis drove and elevated for a nice layup to start the second quarter, but Splitter answered back with a basket-plus-free throw. Tau was getting points from second opportunities, as the visitors already had 7 offensive rebounds, 4 of them Splitter's. Macijauskas and Penn scored to keep Olympiacos safely in front at 25-19, but again Splitter reacted with a basket-plus-free throw. Sam Hoskin then nailed consecutive mid-range jumpers for the hosts and Bouroussis scored after offensive board to make it 29-23. However, Tau was unperturbed by Olympiacos’s enthusiastic play and passionate crowd. Serkan Erdogan chipped in 3 triples in less than 100 seconds to suddenly catapult the guests ahead at 31-32. Domercant stepped up for Olympiacos and connected form behind the arc, but the Rakocevic did the same for Tau to preserve a 35-35 tie. Prigioni and Mirza Teletovic hurt Olympiacos with consecutive layups in the open court as Tau went ahead 35-39 and dictated the tempo now. When Splitter and Rakocevic combined for 5 more points, the visitors were ahead 38-44. Domercant managed to nail a triple from downtown to trim the difference to 41-44 as both teams went to the lockers for halftime.
Tau came out and started the third quarter in style, sailing for an impressive 0-7 run with 5 points from Scola to seize a double-digit difference at 41-51. Poor decision-making caused a lot of trouble to Olympiacos before Bouroussis broke the drought, but Scola was now in the zone and scored another pair of buckets to give him 9 points in less than 3 minutes. Macijauskas made a catch-and-shoot triple to cut into the margin at 47-55. Zizic finished a three-point-play off an offensive board to allow Olympacos to come closer at 50-57. But Rakocevic was there to score a difficult triple, off-the-dribble and under pressure, to silence the crowd at 50-60. Olympiacos got its hope back, however, as Acker's easy layup and free throws brought the difference back down to single digits, 57-64, after 30 minutes.
To start the final quarter, Hoskin took the baseline to score and Acker connected with a fade-away jumper to make it a whole new ballgame at 61-65. Tau was now finding difficulties creating offensive opportunities, but that only lasted until Vidal came off the bench to boost the guests with a critical triple for a safe 61-68 cushion. Scola the scored easily in the paint and Splitter sank free throws to make it 61-72 with 5 minutes remaining. Macijauskas scored and Penn nailed a three-pointer for the Reds, but Rakocevic answered as Tau consistently found solutions. Domercant's easly layup and triple sandwiched around an inside shot by Splitter made it 71-78, giving the hosts some hope. But Tau was not ready to give up. Splitter dunked and time was running down. Some quick points from Panagiotis Vassilopoulos and Domercant made it 79-84 with 50 seconds to go, at which point Olympiacos fouled to make Tau shoot free throws. Pablo Prigioni was accurate and Macijauskas quickly made a basket for a 81-86 score 39 seconds before the final buzzer. Vidal and Acker eached made 1 of 2 foul shots, leaving an 82-87 board, but Scola made both of his, and when Prigioni stole from Domercant, everything was decided. Tau was now looking forward to a return to Athens in a few weeks to play Panathinaikos in the semifinals of the Final Four.
Thursday, April 5, 2007