Tau Ceramica reached the Euroleague quarterfinals playoff in Group F of the Top 16 by beating Zalgiris 82-86 in Kaunas, Lithuania on Wednesday in a game it had to win in order to continue its season. Tau, Panathinaikos and Climamio Bologna finished tied in Group F with 4-2 records and 2-2 marks against each other in head-to-head competition. In the next tiebreaker, point difference among them, Panathinaikos placed first (+14), Tau second (+8) and Climamio third (-22). Tau will now will face Group G champion Benetton Treviso in the best-of-three quarterfinals playoff, but will not have home-court advantage. Luis Scola, Arvydas Macijauskas and Jose Manuel Calderon led the winners each with 18 points. Travis Hansen added 11 points and Tiago Splitter grabbed 10 rebounds for Tau. Robert Pack led Zalgiris with 22 points on 10 of 14 two-pointers, Mindaugas Timinskas added 16 while Tanoka Beard posted a double-double, 11 points and 11 rebounds, for the hosts. Zalgiris started the game at full speed and led 45-33 late in the second quarter, but Calderon and Scola led a comeback which allowed Tau to keep full control of the game in the final minutes.
Tanoka Beard opened the scoring for Zalgiris with a feed in the paint from Pack, but Tau answered with 4 points by Macijauskas. Beard and Pack both received technical fouls then. When Tau kept pushing inside, Beard received his second foul with only 2 minutes gone in the game. Scola made both free throws for a 6-8 Tau lead, then after Salenga's first basket, got red hot with two more inside shots that boosted the lead to 8-12. Scola had 8 points already. Kornel David maintained the lead at 12-16 with a pair of shots before Salenga started Zalgiris back with a couple of his own, the second of which came with a free throw and put the hosts ahead, 21-20. David took the lead right back for Tau and Jose Manuel Calderon added a triple too it, but Vidas Ginevicius had the last word for Zalgiris, a triple on the buzzer that cut the difference to 23-25.
Zalgiris came out strong and took over the lead in the second quarter, making 2 steals converted into fastbreak dunks by Salenga that charged up the Kaunas crowd. Mindaugas Timinskas added a jumper and a layup in penetration, then Ginevicius followed him with a shot from the arc to put the Zalgiris lead at 36-29. After a spell of superb defense in the paint by Darjus Lavrinovic of Zalgiris, Scola found his way to the basket. But Salenga returned, took a rebound and fed Pack on the fastbreak, signalling a new Zalgiris surge. While Tau couldn't find its way to the basket through Lavrinovic and Beard, Zalgiris burst out on a 7-0 run behind 5 points from Pack that vaulted the hosts to a 45-35 advantage. When that lead still held at 47-37 late in the quarter, Tau looked in trouble, but a pair of free throws by Macijauskas began a 0-7 response in which Sergi Vidal, Tiago Splitter and Calderon also scored to suddenly make it a new game, 47-44 at the half.
Tau opened third quarter with basket-plus-free throw by Tiago Splitter that tied the score, 47-47. After a couple quiet minutes, Paulius Jankunas put Zalgiris back ahead, but bad news followed in the form of Beard's fourth foul. After Travis Hansen re-tied if for Tau, Timinskas fired from downtown, but Tau answered with baskets by Calderon and Scola to go up 52-53. Jankunas made 1 of 2 free thros to tie and then Salenga put the hosts back in front as young center Martynas Andriuskevicius made his defensive presence felt with a block for Zalgiris. Calderon just shot over everybody, however, with a triple from left corner. Back and for went the lead on free throws by Timinskas, a jumper by Macijauskas. When a triple by Timinskas was then answered double by Tau, with Sergi Vidal and Hansen blasting from the arc, the guests had a 60-64 lead at the end of three quarters.
Beard returned with his 4 fouls to start the final quarter with a jump-hook, but Splitter answered with a slam that preserved Tau's lead. Things got hot then as Zalgiris's bench got hit with technical fouls for arguing with the referees and Calderon poured in 4 free shots. When Hansen followed with a jumper and Macijauskas a fastbreak layup, Tau had a 65-74 advantage. David bumped that into double digits with a dunk before Zalgiris looked for Pack to cut the margin to 6 points. Hansen and Scola were there with free throws and another jump-hook, respectively, to restore a 70-80 edge with 3 minutes to go. Beard made a tap-in and Ainars Bagatskis a jumper, but Tau played smart and forced Zalgiris to foul. Calderon calmly made all 4 attempts and Hansen a pair from the line to seal the victory that send Tau to the quarterfinals and left Zalgiris winless in the Top 16.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005