Real Madrid turned in another fine defensive effort to top PAOK 53-76 on Tuesday in Thessaloníki, Greece and move up in the Group D standings. The win saw Madrid improve to 4-3 and overtake PAOK for third place. PAOK, which had a four-game winning streak snapped, is also 4-3, but is behind Madrid due to the tiebreaker after losing both their games. PAOK averaged 49 points in those two loses to Madrid. Charles Smith led the winners with 17 points, while Felipe Reyes added 12 points and 8 rebounds and Ratko Varda finished with 10 points and 7 boards. Dimitrios Charitopoulos led PAOK with 13 points, while Drago Pasalic and Ioannis Kalampokis added 9 apiece. Madrid finished the first quarter on a 2-11 run and never looked back. Kerem Tunceri gave the visitors their first double-figure lead midway through the second quarter and the lead grew to 26-39 at halftime. PAOK never made a serious run in the second half as Madrid coasted to a crucial road win.
Defenses ruled from the very start as each team forced the other to miss shots. Early in the game both teams were unable to get the scoreboard rolling, as they embarked on a contest of missing shots. Finally, Madrid opened the scoring on a layup by Marko Thomas, which awoke PAOK as Lazaros Agadakos scored and Pasalic drained a triple to make it 5-2 after 4 minutes of play. Smith nailed a shot from the arc to ignite a 2-12 surge by Madrid, whose defense held PAOK scoreless for 3 minutes. Madrid led 7-13 by then, Smith had 8 points and Raul Lopez 3 assists. Charitopoulos came off the bench to grab an offensive rebound, draw the foul and end the draught for PAOK, only to see Ratko Varda knock down an amazing buzzer-beater from mid-court to widen Madrid's advantage to 9-16 after 10 minutes. Reyes picked up the scoring slack for Madrid early in the second quarter and boosted the margin to 11-20. Soon, Alex Mumbru connected on a three-pointer to trigger a 0-7 run that Reyes finished as Madrid almost doubled their hosts, at 14-27. PAOK's players were clearly ice cold and could not find any rhythm offensively. Reyes and Mumbru kept punishing the PAOK defense, combining for 6 points as the Madrid advantage reached 18-33. Energetic Ioannis Kalampokis tried to redeem the hosts from their offensive blues with back-to-back driving baskets, however Luis Bullock loaded up and bettered him with 2 triples that allowed Madrid to command a 20-39 lead. PAOK managed, thanks to 4 points by Darius Washington, to hack to within 26-39 at halftime.
The second half started with Lopez pouring in 5 points that kept Madrid firmly in charge at 30-44. Then, Smith caught fire once again, as he first scored a mad triple in transition, then finished another Madrid fastbreak with authority. He soon buried his fourth triple to extend the lead to 34-52. PAOK was struggling at both ends and none of its players was able to provide a much-needed spark. Even with Charitopoulos active on the offensive boards and hitting 4 free throws and a layup after an assist by Washington, Madrid prowess was too much for the hosts to handle. The guests kept marching, scoring almost at will, and behind another late basket by Varda raced to a 41-61 edge after 30 minutes. Madrid carried its momentum in to the final quarter thanks Varda and Eduardo Hernandez-Sonseca, who created havoc with consecutive dunks. PAOK tried to bounce back with its perimeter players. Washington stole from Kerem Tunceri and flashed for a layup and then Kalampokis drained a three-point bomb, still Madrid was too good to allow a late comeback. With 4:57 to go, a melee between Washington and Tunceri saw each of them ejected but soon it was PAOK bowing to the visitors' dominance.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006