This series arrives at the second game with Tau Vitoria leading 1-0 over Unicaja Malaga after winning the first game at home on Thursday. Playing again in Vitoria, Unicaja really needed a win, as it would be next to impossible for them to come back again from a 2-0 deficit as they did in the quarterfinals.
Tau Vitoria was still missing Jose Manuel Calderon due to appendicitis, so almost all the playmaking duties rested on the shoulders of Pablo Priggioni. Unicaja seemed to lack some fire in the first game, and the really needed some sort of an offensive spark to be able to beat a strong team such as Tau Vitoria. THE GAME:
In the first game Tau built their victory with a fantastic first quarter, but the second game was decided in the second quarter and started with Jorge Garbajosa
on the bench. To make things worse for the Malaga team, Tiago's entrance upgraded Tau's defense. And without Unicaja's main offensive reference (Garbajosa) on court, this led to a huge offensive draught. Then, Sergi Vidal and Luis Scola
built a lead that Vidal himself and Arvydas Macijauskas
would mantain during the rest of the game. THE MATCHUP:
No big surprise here as Vazquez started while Splitter waited for his chance from the bench. Fran played a solid first quarter, without any major mistakes, and he did perform a few nice moves (such as a couple of consecutive alley-oop dunks, although they were uncontested). Fran also grabbed a couple of rebounds, one of them virtually from the roof (showing his excellent leaping ability). And after a steal during transition, he reacted quickly to dish a quick assist to a teammate under the basket.
Just like the first game, Splitter came onto the court in the second quarter. However, unlike the first game, Vázquez did play most of this second period. All in all, Vázquez's solid performance forced coach Scariolo to keep him on court (the minute and a half he spent on the bench led to 4 point run against Unicaja). Tiago's impact on the game was notorious on the defensive end: Unicaja scored 18 points in the first quarter, but only managed to add 4 points in the second. However, three of those points came on consecutive pick & roll plays executed by Pepe Sanchez
and Vazquez: in the first one, Fran was fouled by Splitter, who unsuccessfully tried to block him; in the second one, Vazquez performed a huge one-handed dunk over Luis Scola
. Throw in a couple of rebounds and his solid play in general, and it is easy to say that he was the best player of his team in this quarter.
Moving back to Tiago, once again he showed his excellent lateral mobility on defense while matching up with Florient Pietrus (Mickael Pietrus
' brother) and Jorge Garbajosa
, displaying great positioning and very good team defense. It's interesting to note that while Splitter defended Garbajosa (the go-to guy on Unicaja) for the most part of the game, Vazquez was on Splitter and not on Scola (who is the big dog on Vitoria). Let's not forget one Splitter's very good pass from the arc to the paint.
With both guys being so consistent in regards to their games, it wasn't strange to see them on court for the third quarter. It was here that Fran decided to put practice his jumper, hitting two out of four attempts. It deserves to be mentioned that the first one, a turnaround faded-away jumper with Tiago Splitter
on him, was almost an unstoppable shot. He rounded off his scoring with another powerful dunk over his defender. This quarter also revealed, clearer than ever, that Fran is improving his ability to box out in rebounding situations.
Splitter's main highlight of this period was ruined by the referees, who incorrectly called him for travelling during an awesome pick & roll play which the Brazilian finished with a left handed layup. Tiago continued with his good defense, although he made a mistake on the offensive end when he looked for a pass instead of shooting himself while the 24 second shot clock was running out.
Nothing changed in the fourth quarter, as both again started off on court. Fran kept adding points to his stat-line with another dunk, this time uncontested. He also scored on a left-handed semi hook after a reverse, trying to fake his defender. It didn't look pretty, perhaps even a bit clumsy, but he was lucky and it went in. However, he missed a couple of hook shots later on in the game.
Tiago didn't exactly show off his best performance of the game. Indeed, he was actually benched midway the quarter. For the second time in the game he received the ball in the low post and was forced to give the ball back out to the perimeter, as there was a Unicaja player ready to jump on him as soon as he started his motion. In his last play of the game, he got the ball with very few seconds left on the 24 second shot clock, and tried to post up Fran Vazquez
. It was useless, as he had received the ball too far from the basket and didn't have enough time to get a good shot off. THE VERDICT:
Despite Unicaja's loss, it was Fran Vazquez
who shined the most. The Spanish was athletically exuberant on the offensive end.
He moved himself pretty well in the paint, looking for good scoring options which his leaping ability allowed him to took care of, while showing the scoring diversity that his jumper provides him. On defense he was quite solid, perhaps not as intimidating as he could be, but he barely had any positioning mistakes. Another positive note was his solid boxing out for rebounds. His good game (and Pietrus' awful one) forced coach Scariolo to keep him on the court for a total of 38 minutes, in which he had 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 1 assist.
Splitter didn't play bad, but his game was much less glamorous. Only 2 sad points to add to his 5 rebounds and 1 assist in 24 minutes of playing time. He was almost a non-factor in the offensive end, not capable of finishing pick & roll plays nor finding good options in the low post. However, his defense was as good as always, instrumental for the lead Tau built in the second quarter.
The next game (perhaps the last one?) will be on Tuesday, June 7th.