Pau-Orthez observed the cardinal rule of progress on Wednesday when it took a second home win in Group A by beating Skipper Bologna, 76-71. Despite the fact that Pau usually led, the game that had no clear owner until the last plays, when Dragan Lukovski steered the hosts to victory. The physical superiority of Pau in the paint was also decisive. Pau went inside and got 16 points each from Rod Sellers and Boris Diaw. Lukovski added 14 points, including 2 late free throws for insurance, and forward Mickael Pietrus 11. Emilio Kovacic was the main reference point for the guests despite not having been expected to even play. He poured in 28 points for Skipper while Lubos Barton helped with 14. With the victory, Pau evens its Group A record at 2-2, while the loss puts Skipper in an identical situation.
The hosts started with the game under control, moving the ball from the outside to the inside, always looking for Sellers. Dragan Lukovski and Mickael Pietrus were able to penetrate, too, and flew over two defenders for a 9-3 Pau lead 4 minutes into the game. In the defensive end, the hosts forced Skipper to move the ball with patience, but when the Italians found the good shot, it awlays went in as Carlos Delfino tied the game at 9-9 from the 6.25 line. The physical superiority of the hosts showed, and that forced coach Matteo Boniciolli to give minutes to Emilio Kovacic, who was doubtful until the last minute. Lukovski drove in the paint for 16-9 while Pau increased its lead little by little. On his part. Kovacic proved that he was the right solution for his team, contributing centimeters and 8 points in the paint. After 10 minutes, teh hosts were leading by 6, 25-19.
The following period kept the atmosphere of the first, as Pau-Orthez paced the game and Kovacic outstood for the guests, as 4 straight points by him left the score at 34-27 in minute 15. Mate Skelin was unable to impose his law under the boards, while Sellers and Kovacic seemed to play their own game precisely below the rims. The game entered a phase of continuous mistakes and turnovers for both sides, broken by Lubos Barton, slamming the rival basket for 39-33. A monster offensive board by Pietrus did nothing but confirm Pau's superiority in the paint, reflected on the scoreboard at 45-35 with 1 minute left before the break. Despite that control in the inside, the French squad had problems shooting from long range, but Skipper never found the way to take advantage of that, as the score reflected at halftime, 45-37.
The somewhat expected reaction of Skipper arrived at the beginning of the third quarter, when the Italians, led by Kovacic like always, hit a 4-12 tear for 51-47 in minute 24, which put them back into the game. Right after that, Pau got its momentum when good defenses that forced Skipper's mistakes, together with efficiency in the offensive end as Lukovski hit for three to put 60-52 on the scoreboard. A three to beat the buzzer by Kovacic though, put Skipper close again at 64-60, for a last period that looked uncertain.
The good defense of Pau marked the first steps of the decisive period, forcing Skipper to play long plays, looking for an easy shot that wasn't always to be found, and the first two points didn't arrive until minute 3 into the quarter, as Barton scored two free throws for 64-62. In the following play, Kovacic tied the game at 64-64 with a monster dunk that worried the home fans. A slow but steady reaction of the hosts was culminated by Cyril Julian with a layup for 70-64. The last seconds of the game saw quick plays on both sides, and whil Lukovski put his team 74-68, Gianmarco Pozzecco answered for 74-71, but Lukovski hit two more free throws to levae his team ahead for good at 76-71.
Wednesday, October 30, 2002