Tau Ceramica made a big jump in the tight Group C standings on Wednesday with an accomplished 80-97 road win against Opel Skyliners in Frankfurt, Germany. Tau was behind in the third quarter, but blew open the game shortly thereafter to win going away and raise its record to 3-3. Combined with other results, Tau is now part of a four-way tie for second place with Benetton, Ulker and Panathinaikos. Opel lost that opportunity and slipped to 2-4. Even scoring saw Arvydas Macijauskas lead five Tau scorers in double figures with 20 points. Luis Scola followed with 17 points and doubled up with 10 rebounds. Robert Conley added 15 points, Jose Manuel Calderon 14 and Tiago Splitter, just back from injury, 10. For Opel, Chris Williams exploded for 29 points, but the Euroleague's top scorer for weeks, Tyrone Ellis, was limited to 15. Pascal Roller was Opel's other big gun with 18 points.
After a 30 minutes delay because of a backboard broken during warm-ups, Macijauskas gave Tau the first lead with a six-meter jumper. The visitors quickly extended the advantage to 0-6 after three turnovers in a row by Opel, forcing a quick timeout by the hosts. Opel found answers then from Williams, whose quickness let him score a a layup and a three-pointer in front of bigger Andrew Betts to get his team closer at 5-10. Despite his effort, Tau kept a solid lead at 12-20 midway through the first period thanks to its good shooting percentage. Back-to-back three pointers by Roller and Ellis, followed by layups from Williams and Spiros Panteliadis boosted Opel to within 22-24 after 7 minutes, forcing Tau's first timeout. The visitors responded by intensifying their defense and keeping Opel from scoring through the end of the quarter. Meanwhile, a three-pointer by Calderon and 2 free throws from Macijauskas gave Tau a 22-29 edge after 10 minutes.
Roller opened fire with 2 three-pointers in a row early in the second quarter, but was quickly answered by Tau's guards. A basket-plus-free throw by Calderon returned a nine-point edge to Tau, and Macijauskas put it into double digits at 28-37 on a fastbreak in minute 13. Opel survived thanks to its outside shot, the hosts' main and almost only way around the Tau defense. Ellis and Matinen sank back-to-back bombs to reduce the gap to only 3 points, 34-37, midway through the quarter. Opel kept rallying and took the lead for the first time after 16 minutes at 38-37 on a jump shot by Roller. Both teams exchanged baskets and game's lead from that moment, entering the final minute with a 40-42 score. Scola, with an inside basket, increased the difference to 40-44 for Tau just before halftime.
Opel took the court more focused than Tau after intermission, and the result was an 11-3 run that featured 6 points by Williams and triple by Roller, giving the hosts their lead, 51-47 after 23 minutes. Calderon started Tau back with a huge three-pointer on the following possession, and Tiago Splitter, back after injury, put Tau ahead 53-54 right after that. After some turnovers and a timeout, Opel managed to tie 56-56 with a frontal three-pointer by Jukka Matinen. Now, after a Tau timeout, Scola took over with 4 points in a row to put his team ahead once again. That small lead was enough to let the guests play more relaxed on offense, resulting in open shots that included a three-pointer by Macijauskas and sent Tau to a 63-71 edge after 30 minutes.
A quick 3 free throw by Macijauskas gave Tau a double-digit lead, 63-74, right after fourth quarter started. Despite Roller's effort to put Opel on his shoulders, Splitter and Scola formed an almost perfect tandem inside the paint, preventing the hosts from getting closer. Opel tried a 2-3 zone defens, but nothing could stop Tau now. A monster alley-oop dunk Splitter finished a fastbreak with Tau up 70-84 and the beginning of the end already evident with 5 minutes to go. Three-pointers by Sergi Vidal and Robert Conley padded the difference to 76-90 after 38 minutes as Tau finished off its third win in Group C.
Wednesday, December 8, 2004