Maccabi needed all 40 minutes to face down a major challenge on its own court before beating AEK 93-92 on Thursday. The victory raised Maccabi's record to 9-3 and put it on the brink of clinching first place in Group B. AEK, playing without leading scorer Nikos Hatzis, fell to 6-6 and a tie with at least two other teams - Zalgiris and Scavolini - in the middle of the group. Anthony Parker scored 5 of his 23 points in the last 2 minutes and fed Derrick Sharp the decisive three-pointer for the winners. Maceo Baston added 19 points, Nikola Vujcic and Sarunas Jasikevicius 15 each, and Sharp 11 for the winners. AEK got 21 points from Toby Bailey, including 4 of 6 three-pointers, 16 from Giorgios Tsiaras, 14 from Sandro Nicevic and 12 from Nikos Zisis.
Both teams left key big men on the bench at the start. Maccabi used Yaniv Green instead of Maceo Baston, while AEK played young Andreas Glyniadakis in place of Sandro Nicevic. After controlling the tip, Jasikevicius fed Parker for an alley-oop slam and foul to thrill the home crowd immediately. Then, off a steal, Tal Burstein fed Vujcic for a fastbreak three-point play to make it 6-0 after 60 seconds. After Glyniadakis hit AEK's first points on a jumper in the paint, Maccabi added 4 more. Glyniadakis was replaced by Nicevic, and as Maccabi focused on him, Quadre Lollis took advantage to score 6 points on offensive rebounds and free thros, completening a 0-8 AEK run to within 15-16. Maccabi regrouped and held the visitors scoreless while Vujcic hit a triple and Parker added a jumper to keep Maccabi in charge until the quarter finished 28-22.
Petar Antic hit a falling jumper for AEK to start the second quarter, but then Vujcic flashed his skills. First he set up Baston for a two-handed slam, then he added an inside bucket of his own. Bailey drilled a triple to keep AEK in the picture, but Maccabi kept the momentum as Baston scored twice, including his second alley-oop slam. Bailey struck again from downtown as AEK stayed within 34-40 midway through the quarter. The pace of the game slowed now with a string of free throws. AEK made the most of that situation, slowly trimming the deficit to a point, 45-44, on a pair of Nicevic foul shots with 90 seconds remaining. In that time, Parker traded 4 more free throws for a pair of jump shots by Georgios Tsiaras to keep Maccabi in front 49-48 at the break.
Tsiaras remained AEK's go-to guy in the second half as well. He scored his team's first 9 points in the quarter - including his first 2 three-pointers of the season - as AEK took its first lead of the game, 56-57 after 24 minutes. Nikolaos Zisis added another bomb as the visitors went up 56-60. Maccabi came alive on the offensive boards and on his fourth try, Derrick Sharp nailed a triple to tie 62-62 before Glyniadakis hushed the crowd with a spin move and basket. The lead went back and forth as both teams had trouble producing points in the relatively low-scoring quarter. Zisis nailed another triple before Parker found Deon Thomas inside for a dunk to even the score at 69-69 after 30 minutes.
A triple by Jasikevicius ended 2 scoreless minutes to start the final quarter, and in that span of time both Lollis and Zisis were called for their fourth fouls, weakening AEK's defense. But the shooters remained strong as Spyridon Magkounis and Bailey scored from downtown to even the game at 75-75. Lollis would last only a few minutes more, picking up his fifth foul with 5:28 to go, when Parker converted the free throws for a new Maccabi lead. On the next play, he took a pass from Vujcic and drilled a three-pointer from the corner that made it 80-75. After a timeout, Magkounis passed through the heart of Maccabi's defense to give Nicevic an easy basket. Soon, Baston converted a three-point play in the paint to return Maccabi's lead to 5 points, after which Thomas tipped in a miss to make it 85-79 with 3 minutes left. Zisis kept his team alive with free throws and yet another triple, but Parker was there to answer with a jumper and 2 foul shots. Bailey then hit from beyond the arc to bring AEK within 89-87. AEK failed to take advantage of two chances to tie, however, and then Parker set up Sharp for a big three-point shot that gave Maccabi a decisive lead with 17 seconds left. Even though Tsiaras scored and was fouled at the buzzer, but his free throw made it only 93-92, too little for AEK.
Thursday, January 27, 2005