AEK Athens remained undefeated and pushed closer to a quarterfinal playoff berth from Group G when it took an impressive 59-75 decision over Prokom Trefl Sopot to ruin the first Top 16 game ever in Poland for the home crowd. AEK left little doubt after storming to a 2-18 lead in the game's first 7 minutes and extending the gap to 28 points in the middle of the second quarter. AEK is now 3-0 and in alone at the top of Group G, while Prokom remains winless and will need a miracle to hope for reaching the next round. Nikos Zisis once again paced AEK with 19 points. Quadre Lollis added 12 and Nikos Hatzis 11 for the winners. Tomas Masiulis had 16 points to lead Prokom, while Istvan Nemeth came off the bench to finish with 13.
AEK excelled on defense in the early going, holding a nervous Prokom scoreless for the opening 3 minutes. Meanwhile, a quick layup by Nicevic ignited a 0-9 run in which Lollis had 5 points and added free throws. Adam Wojcik tried to change things with a basket in the paint, but AEK was on fire, with great ball circulation to always find the open man. Hatzis fired in a mid-range jumper, Zizis added a layup and Nicevic made free throws. Prokom were limited to just 2 points in 5 minutes, and by the time Zizis made his team's first three-pointer, AEK led 2-18. Jagodnik saved the hosts with a layup and Prokom improved a bit once Radojevic stepped on court, but Hatzis followed a free throw with a bomb from downtown for a mamooth 4-22 lead. Radojevic scored twice in the paint to cut Prokom's deficit to 8-24 after 10 minutes in which AEK limited the hosts to 4-for-16 shooting.
AEK kept a firm grip on the proceedings in the second quarter thanks to its continuing defensive work. Meanwhile, Nicevic followed Zizis's layup with a mid-range jumper to make it a 20-point game, 8-28, forcing a Prokom timeout. Nothing seemed to work for the hosts, while AEK rolled along. Zisis nailed a three-pointer and added a layup, while Bailey added his own triple to cap a 0-12 run which boosted the AEK margin to 8-36. It took Prokom 5 minutes to score in this period until Nemeth made a shot from downtown. The hosts needed much more than that, but AEK did not allow much until Tomas Masiulis scored twice in the paint, then Mark Miller canned a triple and a basket-plus-free throw to bring Prokom within 21-42 at halftime.
AEK tried to play with long possessions after halftime to keep a low-scoring pace and avoid rallies. Back-to-back baskets by Tomas Pacesas and Masiulis brought Prokom within the 20-point mark at 26-44. Hatzis tried to wake AEK up, but the Prokom defense had already improved while Masiulis drilled a three-pointer and Darius Maskoliunas added a free throw to cut the difference to 30-46. The trend didn't last long, however, as Zisis took over with a basket-plus-free throw and Sotirios Nikolaidis fired in a three-pointer to reestablish a big 31-52 AEK lead. Giannis Bouroussis scored in the paint and Bailey dunked before the third quarter finished with AEK soaring again at 35-59.
Prokom tried to use the fourth quarter to save its honor with really agrressive defense that prevented AEK from scoring a basket for 5 full minutes. Free throws by Lollis were AEK's only points, while on the other end, Nemeth poured in 8 consecutive points for Prokom, reducing the difference on the scoreboard to 47-60 in the 35th minute and forcing an AEK timeout. Tough defense prevailed on both sides, leading to many trips to the foul line, where AEK was more efficient and therefore kept a lead of 15 points. When Prokom's turnovers resumes, it was clear there would be no miracle finish to the first Top 16 game ever in Poland. AEK was still undefeated and looking now at a good chance to reach the quarterfinal playoffs.
Thursday, March 10, 2005