Tau Ceramica took a major step towards reaching the Quarterfinal Playoffs from Group E by edging Lietuvos Rytas 81-84 in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Wednesday. Tau got the first road win in the group and will tie for first place at the end of this round. Meanwhile, L. Rytas will need to start winning right away to keep its playoff options alive. Tiago Splitter led the winners with 17 points, while Zoran Planinic and Mirza Teletovic each added 11 for Tau. Hollis Price led L. Rytas with 23 points, but committed a key turnover with 6.3 seconds remaining. Marijonas Petravicius posted a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds, Kenan Bajramovic added 15 points and Mindaugas Lukauskis had 10 for the hosts. Splitter and Pete Mickeal fueled a 0-8 opening run in the second quarter that gave Tau an18-26 edge. Gabe Mouneke and an unstoppable Splitter stepped up for Tau to boost the guests' lead to 33-44 at halftime. L. Rytas fixed its offense after the break, as a 10-0 run that Petravicius capped with a put-back basket made it a one-point game, 46-47. Tau found a go-to guy in Planinic, while Teletovic struck twice from downtown to restore a 57-65 Tau lead after 30 minutes. L. Rytas did not give up, however, as a late 7-0 run that Petravicius capped with a layup brought the hosts within 78-81 with 44.5 seconds remaining. Mickeal shined with a critical put-back layup with 22 seconds remaining. Barjamovic sank a triple, Igor Rakocevic missed free throws, but Price committed a turnover with 6.3 ticks remaining. Mickeal hit a free throw and Price missed a desperation midcourt shot, allowing Tau to escape with a win.
Some 11,000 fans greeted both teams starting the Euroleague Top 16, but they were quickly silenced asr Rakocevic was the first to open the game with free throws after a Penetration move. Bajramovic responded with one of his own and, after Will McDonald outplayed Petravicius in the paint, he tied the score with a triple. Both teams chose a fast tempo and it seemed it suited L. Rytas better as Price pushed the home team in front for the first time with free throws, 8-6. The game turned chaotic a bit, but stayed tough and after Mickael and Bajramovic exchanged baskets, Chuck Eidson was hit hard and benched. Jackson Vroman entered and immediately contributed, pushing the margin to 12-9, but Teletovic stepped up with a three. After he hit a free throw, Tau Ceramica led 12-14. L. Rytas woke up then and, with help by Vroman working hard on the offensive glass and Lukauskis, brought restored the lead. After a timeout, Tau used 2 offensive rebounds to have a whole minute for the last attack of the quarter and Planinic tied the score at the last second.
Splitter opened the second quarter with a flashy penetration and Mickael increased the margin to 18-24 with 4 free throws. The hosts looked totally confused and needed a timeout as fresh Mouneke dunked and completed an impressive 0-10 run for Tau. Price finally hit after few empty minutes but Mouneke repeated what he did moments ago, dunking. Petravicius finally scored, making free throws and hitting a semi-hook, but a Red-hot Mouneke responded with a jumper and Sergi Vidal made one from the line, 24-31. Price nailed a three, but Splitter answered and forced Petravicius's third foul as the margin sailed to 27-36. The hosts tried the get closer as Bajramovic and Martynas Gecevicius both hit shots, but ex-L. Rytas player Simas Jasaitis hit a three and Pablo Prigioni penetrated off a steal. Tau again finished the quarter as Splitter used a steal by Prigioni to make it 33-44 at the halftime break.
Lukauskis and Rakocevic exchanged triples as the second half got underway. Eidson opened his account with free throws. Bajramovic, Eidson and Petravicius continued a small, but very important run, using a full-court press to cut the gap to 44-47. The game was suddenly open again, as a put-back by Petravicius put L. Rytas as close as 46-47. The hosts had a chance to take the lead, but Petravicius missed and Planinic penetrated. Lukauskis brought the hosts close again, but Teletovic stepped up with a triple and a huge dunk, 48-54. After Planinic ran the court effectively again, the hosts needed a timeout. Four consecutive points by Petravicius kept L. Rytas close, but Rakocevic and Planinic kept the lead for Tau, 54-60. However the hosts had a local hero, Price, who penetrated twice and forced a Tau timeout with two minutes left in the this crazy quarter. Still, Tau had an ace up its sleeve as Teletovic’s next triple ended the period at 56-63.
Both teams went scoreless for the first minute of the decisive quarter until Splitter finally made a free throw. Price faked the big man on the other attack and hit a triple to ignite the crowd, 62-66. But Andrius Slezas was punished with an unsportsmanlike foul and veteran Prigioni took use with 3 points, 62-69. When Vidal drained a triple and boosted the visitors' lead to 64-72 with six minutes on the clock, it was a now-or-never situation for L. Rytas. After free throws by Petravicius, Lukauskis had a chance on the fastbreak, but missed while Splitter dunked at the other end, 66-74. Splitter hit again, canceling a triple by Price. The big center almost finished the game by forcing a unsportsmanlike foul from Petravicius, hitting a free throw and dishing for Muoneke's triple, that made it 71-80 with three-and-a-half minutes left. Price and Bajramovic tried to save the day with a triple and free throws, 76-81. When Petravicius nailed a baby hook with 44 seconds to go, Tau needed a timeout. Teletovic missed a triple, but L. Rytas couldn't rebound unlike Mickael, whose put-back put Tau in a more comfortable position, 78-83. Bajramovic hit a triple then and Rakocevic suddenly missed both of his free throws. Price took initiative on the last attack but lost the ball and the game.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008