Tau Ceramica retained a share of the Group A lead by downing dangerous Montepaschi Siena 76-61 at Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria, Spain on Thursday for a remarkable 30th consecutive home victory in Euroleague play. Tau has not lost a Euroleague home game in almost three years, since the first win of the streak came on January 26, 2005 against Panathinaikos. Tau improved to 3-1 and ties with CSKA Moscow atop the Group A board two weeks before they face each other in Vitoria. Montepaschi dropped to 2-2 shaerd third place with Olympiacos, Union Olimpija and Zalgiris Kaunas. Will McDonald led the winners with 18 points and 8 rebounds. Igor Rakocevic added 14 points, Tiago Splitter had 12 while Mirza Teletovic grabbed 13 rebounds for Tau. Romain Sato had 14 points for Montepaschi while Terrell McIntyre added 13 for the guests. A 9-0 run that McDonald capped with free throws gave Tau a 21-13 lead after 10 minutes. Montepaschi trailed all the way from that point, but free throws by Shaun Stonerook brought the guests back in the game, 51-46, late in the third quarter. It didn't last long, however, as Tau broke the game open with a 13-0 fourth-quarter run that boosted the lead to 64-46 and sealed the outcome.
Benjamin Eze opened the scoring for Montepaschi with a powerful two-handed dunk, but defenses took over right after that. Splitter's free throw and the first three-pointer of the night, by Pete Mickeal, gave Tau the lead, although neither team dictated the rhythm. Montepaschi’s offense was led by the Eze and Romain Sato. Tau pushed inside to feed Splitter, whose 4 points in a row from provided a 12-8 and forced Montepaschi head coach Simone Pianigiani's first timeout. Marvis Thornton brought Montepaschi within 12-11 with a corner three-pointer and then Sato took back the lead for the guests with a fastbreak layup. A flurry of bench changes went Tau's way as subs McDonald, Pablo Prigioni and Sergi Vidal sparked a 7-0 run to a 19-13 advantage. Another point by McDonald extended the lead to 21-13 as the quearter ended with Montepaschi having not scored for 4 minutes.
To start the second quarter, Teletovic hit nothing but net on his first three-point attempt, good for the first double-digit lead, 24-13. Montepaschi struggled for points, especially from outside, with 2 points by Ksystof Lavrinovic the only outcome points for the visitors during a total of 8 minutes. Tau kept kept a safe margin thanks to outstanding offensive rebounding and Siena’s turnovers. Finally, Rimantas Kaukenas and McIntyre came to the rescue and allowed Montepaschi to rally within 29-20 after 15 minutes. Prigioni answered immediately from downtown for Tau, even though the visitors increased their activity on defense and started using pick-’n'-rolls well enough to reduce the gap to 34-26 on 4 points in a row by Eze. Although Montepaschi’s center had 2 monster blocks on McDonald, Tau’s center didn’t give up and became the main weapon of his team to maintain a comfortable 38-30 margin at the half.
McIntyre opened fire after intermission with a corner jumper to bring Montepaschi within 38-32, but Tau needed only two plays for baskets by Rakocevic and Splitter to get a double-digit lead back. The Italian team's shooting remained poor, and Tau made sure of the rebounds to prevent Montepaschi from getting second chances. Vlado Ilievski broke that trend with a three-pointer and Sato scored inside to get Montepaschi into the game again. Tau went with two point guards then as Rakocevic made a three-point to calm what looked more and more like a balanced game. Lavrinovic scored in traffic and Kaukenas hit a layup to reduce the margin again to 5 points, 49-44, as Tau head coach Neven Spahija called a timeout. McDonald came to the rescue again for Tau, scoring and rebounding, and Zoran Planinic found a lucky basket to end the quarter with Tau leading 53-46.
Planinic and McDonald kept rocking and boosted Tau’s lead to 57-46 with an early 4-0 run in the final quarter. Pianigiani took an urgent timeout, but McDonald hit a free throw and Vidal scored a layup off an offensive rebound to put more distance on the lead. Tau's defense did the rest, making sure that Montepaschi stayed scoreless for the first 5 minutes of the quarter as the hosts broke open the game easier than expected. Splitter gave the hosts a 17-point lead with a free throw at 63-46 as Montepaschi faded away step by step. Teletovic made the gap bigger with a three-pointer, followed by Rakocevic who made it a 20-point game, 68-48, with a left handed layup after 36 minutes. With the outcome in no doubt, both teams spent the last minutes exchanging baskets until the final buzzer, as Tau extended its home-winning streak to 30 games.
Thursday, November 15, 2007