PAOK held on for a tough 84-81 win over Unics Kazan on Tuesday in Thessaloníki, Greece, to move into second place in Group D. Vlado Scepanovic scored 23 points to lead PAOK, which improved to 3-2, the same record as Kazan. Both team now trail undefeated Crvena Zvezda by two games. The game went down to the wire, with Jason Parker making only one of two from the line in the closing seconds that could have iced the game. However Jarod Stevenson's three-pointer to force overtime missed and PAOK was left to celebrate the win. Drago Pasalic finished with 21 points and 6 rebounds, Darius Washington 16 and Jason Parker 11 with 4 assists for the winners. Saulius Stombergas led Unics with 17, Mateen Cleaves added 14, Darjus Lavrinovic and Egor Meshcheryakov had 13 each and Stevenson 12.
PAOK started the battle with high intensity and didn't need more than 3 minutes to take an 11-5 lead on 5 quick points by Scepanovic, a three-point play by Pasalic and a three-point shot from the arc by Parker. The experienced Unics players knew how to react, as Stevenson and Stombergas drilled triples to tie, 11-11. Cleaves gave the visitors a lead that grew to 13-17 on another Stombergas basket, PAOK got great perimeter accuracy from Scepanovic and Ioannis Kalampokis, whose triple and 3 free throws fired the hosts ahead by 21-20 after 10 minutes. Unics reacted at the beginning of the second quarter, led still by Stombergas, whose early layups restored a 22-24 advantage, to which Meshcheryakov added a basket. An exchange of baskets maintained the Unics lead at 26-29 until Pasalic started exploding from downtown. He bombed three times from the arc in a minute-and-a-half to vault PAOK ahead 37-33. When Cleaves and Ksistof Lavrinovic tied it for Unics, Pasalic then capped a 7-1 PAOK response with his fourth triple in as many minutes, making it 44-36. PAOK unfortunately saw guard Darius Washington injured late in which he had scored all 7 of his points, but the hosts held on for a 45-39 advantage at the half.
PAOK took the third period, as Pasalic and Scepanovic helped grow the lead to 56-44 midway through the period. Unics tried to improve defensively, while on offense Stevenson made two jumpers and Stomergas and Cleaves hit threes to cut the margin to 60-56 with three minutes to go. Stevenson and Petr Samoylenko continued the Kazan momentum and then Darjus Lavrinovic 's three tied it at 66-66 with six minutes left. Cleaves gave Unics its first lead in a while and Darjus Lavrinovic's free throws helped keep the visitors on top for a little while. Washington, who had come back after an injury late in the second period, and Parker stepped up on offense, joining Scepanovic to put PAOK back. Washington didn't miss from the foul line, giving his team an 83-81 lead with 27 seconds to go. Pasalic made a crucial steal from Samylenko, which almost decided the winner. After Kazan's timeout, Parker had the opportunity for two free throws. He made the first one, but missed the other with less than 10 seconds to go. But Stevenson's three-pointer didn't go right and the overtime didn't come for the visitors, who suffered their second loss in the ULEB Cup.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006