Power Electronics Valencia will take a 7-point cushion into the return leg of its Eurocup Quarterfinals series against Aris BSA 2003 after registering a 64-71 road win in Thessaloniki on Wednesday. Valencia hosts the second game and is now the favorite to advance to the Eurocup Finals in Vitoria, Spain, since it can lose by up to 6 points and still advance. The visitors trailed only once, 9-8 in the opening quarter, before Thomas Kelati buried a jumper and a triple and the visitors never let up. Aris made several charges back and were within 50-53 early in the fourth quarter, however Marko Marinovic responded with a timely triple and Valencia stretched the lead to 10. Aris tried its best in the closing minutes to cut the difference, but the visitors were up to the challenge. Marinovic led the way with 18 points, Matt Nielsen added 14 and Nando De Colo scored 12 for the winners. Keydren Clark paced Aris with 14 points, Dimos Dikoudis added 12 and Nikos Hatzivrettas 11 for Aris, which was without the injured Jason Richardson.
Nielsen got Valencia going with a tip-in, as Aris struggled to score in the opening two minutes. Clark stepped up with a driving layup but Nielsen twice put Valencia back on top. Clark connected from downtown to make it 6-6, but De Colo’s jumper kept Valencia ahead. Hatzivrettas gave the Aris fans something to shout about with a triple, but the lead changed hands again on Kosta Perovic free throws. Thomas Kelati’s jumper fueled Valencia and then Matt Walsh was called for a technical foul. After Rafa Martinez hit the resulting free throw, De Colo drilled a triple to put the visitors up 11-18. Hatzivrettas got to the line and made 2, but Kelati drained a three to keep the momentum with Valencia for a 13-21 lead after 10 minutes. It took the hosts two minutes more into the second quarter, but then they warmed up with 6 straight points including a pair of Dimos Dikoudis baskets on the offensive glass. Valencia answered as Serhiy Lishchuk sliced through the Aris defense for a basket and Marinovic nailed a three to make it 19-26. Andy Betts banged inside for a basket before Aris used a timeout to talk things over. Betts added 2 free throws to narrow the gap to 4 before Marinovic and Nikos Barlos traded triples. Betts tacked on another free throw to get within 27-30. Nielsen ended two scoreless minutes for the visitors with a free throw only to see Betts make it a 2-point game with his fourth and fifth made free throws. Clark made a reverse layup as Aris closed within 1, but Nielsen struck back inside and Marinovic converted a basket-plus-foul. Walsh made a triple to keep Aris within 34-37 at halftime.
Nielsen picked up where he left off by scoring on the first two possessions of the third quarter. Victor Claver attacked the basket for his first points and an 8-point Valencia lead. Barlos tried to spur his team with a triple, but De Colo countered with three of his own. De Colo answered again after a Dikoudis basket. Soon Lishchuk drained a three to stretch the lead to 9. A basket by Clark and free throws from Hatzivrettas gave Aris hope until Kelati buried a three-pointer. Walsh’s layup kept Aris within 48-53 at the end of the third quarter. Hatzivrettas cut the gap to 3 early in the fourth quarter only to see Marinovic drill a triple and Florent Pietrus flush a dunk. Lishchuk and Pietrus both made 1 free throw as the Valencia lead reach double figures for the first time. Aris looked lost on offense despite the constant support from the packed arena. Aris used a timeout after which Dikoudis connected from behind the arc. Barlos soon added a pair of free throws and Valencia head coach Neven Spahija called a timeout. Marinovic gave some breathing room to Valencia with 2 free throws, however Dikoudis came right back with a triple. Marinovic rescued Valencia with a three. Walsh went to the line, but only made 1. Nielsen was in the right place at the right time to push the visitors lead back to 8. Clark quickly scored for Aris and now Valencia began trying to kill the clock. De Colo sank 2 free throws. Clark attacked the basket for a three-point play, but a pair of Martinez free throws gave Valencia a 7-point cushion heading into the return leg.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010