Tau Ceramica moved into a tie for first place in Group A with a 90-80 win over Climamio Bologna on Wednesday night at Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria, Spain. Tau won its fourth straight game to improve to 4-1, joining Olympiacos, which fell at Efes Pilsen earlier in the evening. Climamio, playing for the first time under new coach Ergin Ataman, remained the lone winless team in the competition. Luis Scola led Tau with a season-high 26 points, while Pablo Prigioni had 15 points and 7 assists, Serkan Erdogan and Igor Rakocevic scored 13 each and Tiago Splitter finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds. David Bluthenthal led Climamio with 24 points and 8 boards, Preston Shumpert added 14, Marco Belinelli 13 and James Thomas had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Climamio kept it close for much of the first half, but Prigioni and Splitter combined for all the points during a 14-5 run that extended Tau's lead 46-30 at halftime. The hosts then remained in control throughout the second half as the lead reached 20 points until Climamio closed the gap in the closing minutes.
Both teams started out cold, playing slow basketball with Thomas the only player to score in the first four minutes of the game. The Climamio center hit a free throw and later threw down a power dunk to give Climamio an early 0-3 lead. Tau continued to miss-fire, allowing Bluthenthal to increase the margin to 0-5 with a bank shot. The hosts' drought came to an end as Scola took the court midway through the first quarter. The star power forward scored on his first attempt and more points were on the way. With Scola on the floor, the hosts started running and Climamio started shaking. Rakocevic followed a three-pointer with a pair of free throws to give Tau its first lead at 11-9. Erdogan kept Tau rocking and increased the margin to 16-11 with 5 points in a row to close the first period.
Tau remained hot in the beginning of the second quarter, as Prigioni sent an amazing assist to Scola from out of bounds and followed that with another dish to Erdogan for a fastbreak triple. Even though Ataman tried slowing Tau down with a quick timeout, things didn't change a lot for the visitors, despite of a couple of three-pointers by Shumpert and Steffen Hamman. Climamio's soft defense allowed Tau to keep a comfortable margin from that point on, even though the hosts weren't focused on deffense either. Climamio remained within striking distance thanks to it's rebounding power until Prigioni and Splitter combined for all the points during a 14-5 run that extended Tau's lead 46-30 at halftime.
Things dind't change after intermission, as Climamio's shooting woes continued, especially for Belinelli, who headed the bench after 24 minutes having made just 2-of-8 field goals. Tau was able to keep building its cushion and the first 20-point lead came thanks to fastbreak layup by Zoran Planinic in the middle of the period. Climamio reacted towards the end of the quarter, with Shumpert, Thomas and Bluthenthal getting the visitors within 61-48. But Climamio's hopes soon vanished after Rakocevic and Erdogan came through with a pair of three point plays to reach the end of the period with a comfortable 68-50 lead.
Back-to-back Bluthenthal triples from the same spot gave the visitors new life and reduced the gap again to 69-56 early in the period. Climamio stayed close for a few minutes, but Tau soon raised the difference to 19 points again after several Climamio turnovers. The next few minutes served only for the fans' enjoyment, as it was already clear which team was going to be the winner. As such, the defenses relaxed a bit more as all players tried to give the crowd some plays to remember. That kind of non-pressure basketball benefited Climamio, which managed to save some face in the last few minutes and return to Bologna with a less painful 10-point defeat.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006