Before visiting Zadar on Thursday, Pau-Orthez had the obligation to win if it wanted to keep intact its helathy chances to make it out of Group C to the Top 16 of the Euroleague. The French champions did not fail, inflicting a very heavy 101-73 loss on their visitors and taking a positive 5-4 record into the holidays. It was Pau's biggest Euroleague win of the season, and it was a group effort, with Boris Diaw leading the offensive assault with 17 points. that was less than Davor Marcelic, whose 18 points led Zadar. With a 2-7 record, Zadar remain at the last place of Group C and now has few chances to survive the first round of the competition. Not so for Pau, which retains a half-hold on third place, where it is now tied with CSKA Moscow.
Did Pau-Orthez think the game was won before being played? The French champions entered the game very weakly, shooting only 1 for 9 from the field in the first five minutes. On the other side, Zadar was a little more efficient and took an early lead (3-10). Pau awakened however and chipped its way back to the point that Freddy Fauthoux, with a three-point shot in the corner, could finally give the home team the lead, 17-16, at the end of the first 10 minutes.
The second quarter started with bad news for Zadar as guard Hrvoje Perincic received his third and fourth fouls in the first minute. Despite this, the Croatians did not quit. Thanks to the inside presence of Ivan Grgat and the outside accuracy of Davor Marcelic, Zadar stayed in the game at 35-34 after 27 minutes. Pau-Orthez finally managed to mount a bigger margin after a technical foul given to Zadar coach Petar Popovic. Fauthoux hit the two free throws and scored on a drive, giving his team an eight-point, 46-38. At the buzzer, Michael Pietrus rained a jumper from behind the arc, giving Pau the biggest margin of the game, 51-40. With 13 points, Marcelic was the leading scorer of the first half. Sellers had 9 for the hosts.
Power forward Tomislav Ruzic scored the first four points after halftime for Zadar but the good moment for the Croatian team was short. Indeed, Pau responded with an 8-0 run and took a 17-point lead, 61-44, halfway through the quarter. The visiting team did not find any offensive solution and began to lose its defense, too. Boris Diaw scored the seven points in a row, including one spectacular dunk, to give Pau a 21-point lead after 30 minutes, 76-55.
Young forward Diaw continued his one-man show, nailing the first seven first points of the final quarter for his team. He was up to 14 in a row in 5 minutes. Zadar couldn't respond, all the more as Ivica Ruzic was fouled out. Suspense about the outcome was over, but Pau forward Florent Pietrus scored a last three-pointer at the buzzer to please the crowd and push the winning total over 100 points.
Thursday, December 20, 2001