Tau Ceramica finished strong to remain atop of Group C with a tough 68-73 victory at Alba Berlin. Tau used a 8-2 final spurt to hand Berlin its first loss at the o2 World arena – the site of the 2009 Euroleague Basketball Final Four – and improve to 6-2, despite being held well below its league-best 92.7 points per game. Tau jumped ahead 3-10, but Berlin answered with an 11-2 run and the game was tight the rest of the way. Tau grabbed a bit of an advantage in the third quarter, holding Berlin to just 11 points. Berlin came back in the fourth period and grabbed the lead with just three minutes to play. But Tau finished the game better to collect the road victory. Igor Rakocevic led Tau with 24 points and Tiago Splitter had 15 points and 8 rebounds. Pete Mickael added 14 points and Mirza Teletovic chipped in 13. Berlin was paced by 17 points from Rashad Wright, while Immanuel McElroy had 11 points and Aleksandar Nadjfeji and Steffen Hamann both added 10 points for Berlin, which dropped to 3-5 and faces an uphill battle to reach the Top 16.
Tau’s Pablo Prigioni hit a three-pointer after a fine pass out to the corner from Rakocevic to start the game. But Hamann answered right back to even the game early. On the next trip, Rakocevic drained a three and Tau retained possession on a Berlin foul. Splitter then made 2 foul shots to make it 3-8 and then on the next possession the big man hit a reverse layup and the lead grew to 3-10. Hamann came back down for a driving layup and made 2 foul shots as the hosts trimmed the margin to 7-10. Adam Chubb hit a fine basket to make it a 1-point game only to see Mickeal answer with a driving lay-up for a 9-12 lead. McElroy’s lay-in made it a 1-point game and then Casey Jacobsen hit a three from the left wing after a Will McDonald turnover to put Berlin ahead 14-12, completing an 11-2 run. McDonald knotted things with 2 foul shots and then collected Mickael’s pass and laid it in for a 14-16 advantage. Rakocevic was fed by Prigioni and converted the layup and three-point play for a 14-19 advantage. Nadjfeji and Rakocevic swapped foul shots before Ansu Sesay finally scored his first points from the foul line to make it 18-21. Splitter missed from right at the rim but got his own rebound and then passed out to Teletovic, who drained the triple for an 18-24 advantage. Nadjfeji answered with a lay-in and then Wright hit a pull-up jumper just before the buzzer to bring Alba within 22-24 after one period.
Nadjfeji hit a contested jumper in the lane to even things at 24-24 to start the second quarter. Mickael and Nadjfeji both hit baskets off the glass and then each scored another basket before Teletovic converted in the paint for a 28-30 lead. Mickael then swiped the ball from Jacobsen and slammed home on the break for a four-point advantage. Hamann cut it to 31-32 with a triple, but Teletovic drained his own long ball and it was back to 31-35. Adam Chubb and McElory combined for three foul shots and the margin was down to 34-35. Sergi Vidal grabbed a steal but missed the break-away layup and Chubb hit in the lane to give Berlin a 36-35 advantage. But Teletovic drained another triple and then Rakocevic hit a reverse lay-up from the right side and Berlin boss Luka Pavicevic called a timeout with Tau leading 36-40. Jacobsen came out of the timeout with a three-ball from the side. But he missed another long ball attempt and Rakocevic streaked back for a break away layup for a 39-42 lead. McElroy then went coast-to-coast for a layup after a Tau miss, but Splitter answered the next time down with a thunderous dunk in the paint for a 41-44 cushion at halftime.
McElroy opened the second half with a break-away lay-up after a Priginoi turnover. Rakocevic used a pick to get room on the right wing for a triple to make it 43-47. Sesay threw down a left-handed dunk after a defensive breakdown by Tau, which saw Mickael knock down a hook and then Splitter hit inside and picked up the foul, unable to complete the three-point play with the guests leading 45-51. Rakocevic beat his man into the paint and then dished to Splitter who hit again in the paint and was fouled – again missing the chance for a three-point play and it was 45-53. Berlin struggled offensively until Jacobsen knocked down a triple from the left corner to cut it to 48-53. Splitter returned to the foul line and made both and the lead was back to 7 points until Wright’s jumper after a crossover dribble. And 2 Wright free throws brought Berlin back to 52-55 only to see Mickael hit two foul shots for a 52-57 advantage. Both teams struggled offensively the next few minutes. Rakocevic made two free throws to make it 52-59 and that was the score after three quarters as Sesay missed from less than a foot away.
Wright hit the first basket of the fourth with a break away layup after a steal at the top of key but Rakocevic knocked down a tough jumper and it was 54-61. Wright again grabbed a steal and went all the way for a lay-up for the hosts. Wright swiped yet another ball and was fouled and Tau called a timeout. Sesay missed a wide-open triple and Rakocevic hit the baseline jumper for a 56-63 lead. Alba turned over the ball and Teletovic pushed back for a break-away layup as the lead grew back to 9 points, resulting in a Berlin timeout. But Berlin mounted a come-back. Wright hit a fall-away jumper and then knocked down a triple from the left wing and the lead was down to 61-65 with five minutes left. Splitter missed a tough lay-up and Wright passed out to McElroy, who drained a triple from the right wing to bring Berlin to within 64-65 with four minutes to play. Splitter missed another layup and Sesay gave Berlin the lead with a tough lay-up 66-65. But that proved to be the end of the Berlin run. Tau drew three quick fouls and then Rakocevic went to the line for three foul shots and hit all three for a 66-68 lead with less than two minutes to play. Wright turned the ball over and Splitter hits a tough lay-in in the paint and converted the three-point play for a 66-71 advantage. Sesay stumbled in the lane and turned over the ball, but Rakocevic could not seal the game with a three-pointer. Wright was fouled hard and hit 2 foul shots to make it 68-71. But Mickael pushed it back to 5 points on a tough turn-around jumper with 29 seconds left. Wright missed from downtown for Berlin and Tau closed out the game.
Thursday, December 18, 2008